Scared of infection, kin shy away from funeral of COVID patients

Family members not turning up to receive bodies, claim hospital staff

May 01, 2021 01:00 am | Updated 01:00 am IST - VIJAYAWADA

Lonely journey:  Hospital staff wheeling away the body of a COVID-19 victim to the mortuary, at the Government General Hospital in Vijayawada.

Lonely journey: Hospital staff wheeling away the body of a COVID-19 victim to the mortuary, at the Government General Hospital in Vijayawada.

A college student and her younger brother sit clueless at the mortuary of the Government General Hospital (GGH) in Vijayawada. Just a few hours ago, they were informed that their 52-year-old father, who was undergoing treatment for COVID-19, had breathed his last.

“I have been calling my uncle. We are waiting here at the mortuary. Nobody is helping us. Despite several calls and texts, none of my close family members is responding. They all live in this city. I have no clue how we will perform the final rites of my father,” says the girl, while her mother weeps inconsolably nearby.

Fear of contracting the infection is so palpable that let alone relatives, even the close family members are shying away from helping out those who are struggling to shift the bodies from hospital for the last rites.

Sanitation workers, mortuary staff and ambulance drivers are seen helping the kin of the deceased COVID patients. Such scenes are becoming common at the hospital mortuaries in Guntur, Machilipatnam, Vijayawada and other places as the virus continues to take toll.

“Only two or three family members of the deceased are coming to have the last glimpse, but from a distance. In a majority of the cases, we help the hospital staff shift the the body it the ambulance,” says an ambulance driver.

Some hospital staff say that many bodies lie unclaimed as family members do not even come forward for it. “We call up to the mobile numbers of the kin of the deceased, but there is no response,” claims a hospital employee.

‘Shortage of stretchers’

With the unclaimed body keeping piling up, the hospital staff are facing shortage of stretchers as the number of patients getting admitted has been on the rise.

“We are facing a shortage of stretchers as they are occupied by bodies. The bodies cannot be shifted to burial grounds or crematorium as many ambulance drivers are scared to shift them. We have seen people shifting bodies in auto-rickshaws,” says a hospital employee requesting anonymity.

With kin shying away from the funeral, the sanitation workers and government staff are performing the final rites of the patients. A few days ago, Avanigadda CI B. Ravi Kumar and Nagayalanka SI K. Srinivas performed the last rites of a 38-year-old woman, who died of COVID at Perlavani Lanka. Only two members of her family were present at the funeral.

The Athkur police retrieved the body of a person who reportedly jumped into a water tank fearing that he had contracted COVID infection, in Krishna district a few days ago.

Despite repeated appeals, the villagers refused to help retrieve the body, the police officials said.

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