MUMBAI: A chilling video showing plastic-wrapped bodies of people who have died from COVID-19 next to patients at a public Mumbai hospital has shocked India, as experts blamed authorities for not issuing clear guidelines.
The footage showed a ward in Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, in Sion. It was released by a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Nitesh Rane on May 7, leading the opposition to demand an inquiry into the incident.
“It has been observed several times that family members are not available to claim bodies of patients who have died,” a hospital statement said Sunday. “We need to call them repeatedly, and still, they avoid claiming the bodies. All this causes a delay in removing the bodies.”
The statement added that, under new rules, the bodies of patients confirmed to have died of COVID-19 as well as those patients suspected to have died from it, should be handed over to relatives within 30 minutes of death.
Rane released a new video on Monday, this time of bodies on beds near patients in another public facility, KEM Hospital in Parel in central Mumbai.
Both hospitals serve millions of patients every day throughout the year.
An increasing number of COVID–19 cases in Mumbai — India’s financial capital — means it has emerged as India’s virus hotspot.
As of Monday, the city had more than 13,000 cases and 508 fatalities, with no sign of a slowdown in the spread of the disease.
An investigation has been launched into the Sion hospital video by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to establish the veracity of the footage. Authorities said that mortuaries reaching their full capacity was another challenge.
But medical experts said the issue came down to the various guidelines, set by the central government, the government of Maharashtra, the BMC and the Indian Council of Medical Research, making it tougher to manage the outbreak.
“The Indian government had time to prepare for the pandemic from January this year, but we lost two months,” Dr. I. S. Gilada, managing director and consultant HIV/AIDS at the Unison Medicare and Research Centre, told Arab News. “And after that, there’s been another two-month course of changing one guideline after the other which has only created utter confusion. An example is the latest guideline of not having to test before discharge from hospital for patients with mild symptoms. This is not the right thing to do.”
He added that patients discharged in this manner were asked to give an undertaking that they would quarantine themselves in a separate room when they returned home.
“Is this possible when many Indians live among their large families in tiny homes?” he asked.
A notification on May 6 from the Directorate of Medical Education and Research, Maharashtra, told private doctors in Mumbai and its suburbs to serve on a compulsory basis at hospitals treating COVID-19 patients for 15 days or face action. Doctors said the rule lacked clarity.