Two ‘forgotten’ bodies of COVID-19 victims found in ESI mortuary after 15 months

In a shocking incident, the decomposed bodies of two COVID-19 patients, who died of the virus during the first wave in 2020, were found in the mortuary of ESIC Model Hospital in Rajajinagar.

The bodies were recovered on Friday evening, at the cold storage when the housekeeping staff went there for cleaning.

The families of the victims, who were earlier told that the bodies were cremated, are stunned at the turn of events. They were informed by the police about the bodies still being in the mortuary.

Sources in the hospital said the bodies were identified as Durga S., 40, a resident of Chamarajpet, and Muniraju, 35, a resident of KP Agrahara in Bengaluru, with the help of tags.

They were admitted to the ESIC Model hospital for COVID-19 treatment in July 2020. After their death, their bodies were shifted to the mortuary to be handed over to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for cremation.

As per COVID-19 protocols then, the civic body had the responsibility of cremating the bodies of the victims and the bodies were not given to the families.

The mortuary at the hospital has six cold storages for storing dead bodies. However, during the spike in COVID-19 deaths, the cold storage facility was not enough to handle the load. Hence, a new mortuary with storage facilities for 10 bodies was constructed.

Sources in the hospital said the two bodies were “forgotten” in the old mortuary as the hospital authorities were under the impression that the BBMP personnel had taken away the bodies.

When the new mortuary started functioning in December 2020, the old facility was not used much as there were not many deaths, sources said.

“The fact that two bodies were lying in the freezers came to light only after the housekeeping staff opened the freezers following a foul smell,” sources said.

When contacted, V. Vijayanath, Head of the Department of Forensic Medicine at ESI Hospital, refused to comment. However, Hospital Dean and Director Jithendra Kumar said he has ordered an internal enquiry. “There seems to have been a problem with the handing over of the bodies to the BBMP, as the mortuary log book shows that the bodies had been handed over,” the doctor said.

“The bodies have now been handed over to the police and the families of both the deceased were called to the Rajajinagar Police station on Monday afternoon to collect them for disposal,” he said.

Anil Kumar Sahu, ESI Regional Director, Karnataka, said he will get the matter thoroughly investigated.

This “negligence” has evoked sharp criticism. A group of organisations came together and staged a protest in front of the hospital on Monday.

Ms. Durga’s younger brother Madhusudan B. and sister Sujatha G.B., who are now taking care of her two daughters (aged 11 and 15 ), said her body was not handed over to them as per the guidelines.

“Our houses were sealed and the BBMP personnel even called us up to inform us that our sister’s body was cremated. We believed them and performed all the rituals. We were shocked when the police told us that her body is still in the mortuary,” Mr. Madhusudan told The Hindu.

Ms. Durga’s husband had died earlier.

A family member of Mr. Muniraju blamed the hospital and the BBMP for the fiasco. “How could they not notice that bodies were lying in the mortuary for 15 months? This is shocking,” a family member said.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 7:10:12 AM |

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