Some facts are stranger than fiction. One such fact is that SCB Medical College and Hospital (SCBMCH), the largest health institution of the State, does not have a public mortuary to preserve corpses till their disposal or handover.
Bodies are left to rot in a room at a corner of the hospital in pitiable conditions without a refrigerated environment and are often handed over to their kin or disposed of in a grossly decomposed and putrid state.
With growing concerns over the state-of-affairs, ‘We Care’, an NGO, has stepped in to provide a proper mortuary facility to preserve the bodies till they are claimed. The NGO’s proposal has been accepted by the government and the mortuary is to be operational soon.
In the first phase, the mortuary would have four cabinets to preserve four bodies at one go. It would be temporarily located near the Forensic Medicine and Toxicology department, with plans mooted for constructing an independent facility for the purpose. It would be gradually expanded to 10 cabinets.
Under the arrangement, the Government would provide the space and free electricity for the purpose while the entire responsibility of the functioning, maintenance and upkeep would be on the organisation, Deputy Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Kulamani Mishra said.
That any hospital should have a mortuary is an established norm but the SCBMCH, intriguingly, had been functioning without any such facility for years. With over 1,500 beds the hospital is flocked with patients not only from across Odisha but also from West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. The patient load results in high number of deaths due to terminal diseases, accidents and other causes.
While the number of unidentified or unclaimed casualties are rising, many a time there is also a delay in handing over of the bodies as the relatives live in far off places.
The hospital also cannot dispose of the unidentified bodies immediately as the guidelines mandate a minimum four days before the bodies are deemed to be unclaimed.
Under these circumstances and absence of proper mortuary facilities, the bodies are kept in a closed room without preservation through freezing. As a result, the bodies begin to decompose in a couple of days not only presenting a gory picture but also emitting smell and unhygienic conditions around. They are also deemed to be against medical ethics.
“These things would, however, be things of the past as the proposed mortuary would be a state-of-the-art unit with bodies preserved in environment that complies with all guidelines. The refrigeration unit would be installed by us. The cabinets are being procured and the facility will be operational soon,” said Narayan Kumar, ‘We Care’ managing trustee.