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Situation grave as mortuaries begin to fill up in Bengaluru

Covid deaths on the rise in the last few days; Procedure of handing over bodies takes long, puts pressure on hospitals

Published: 13th July 2020 06:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th July 2020 05:15 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU:  Mortuaries in hospitals across Bengaluru are slowly filling up as deaths of Covid-19 patients, Covid suspected cases and non-Covid ones are rising. As per protocol, a body is handed over to the BBMP when it is a Covid-related death. The challenge, however, is that the family of the deceased is usually under quarantine and it takes a hospital several hours to find concerned BBMP ward officials from the residential area of the deceased to hand over the body. 

“We lose time trying to find out who the concerned BBMP ward official is, despite having a list of officers with us. We then have to get in touch with the relatives. There is no single BBMP number that we can call. The process needs to be streamlined as it now takes 5-6 hours to trace the concerned officer,” said Dr Varghese, professor and head of Forensic Medicine Department, St. John’s Medical College.

In one case, the address given to the hospital by the family was Mahadevapura, but multiple calls later, it was found that the actual address was Anekal. If a body is being handed over to the BBMP, a family member has to sign at the hospital, and also identify the body. While there are 12 free chambers out of 20 at this college, last week the number of deceased reached 16-18, leading to a shortage of space.

“They should authorise NGOs to help the family take the body and the BBMP too should allow family members to claim the body. Also, a BBMP official should be posted at the crematorium to see if the protocol is followed,” he said. Bengaluru has a shortage of cold storage spaces and with the increasing number of Covid fatalities, more space needs to be created. Also, if a death occurs late evening, the hospital has to keep the body till the next day as crematoriums close by 5.30-6 pm. 

“In some cases, patients come with breathing difficulties, collapse and pass away within 10-15 minutes. These suspect cases have to be kept in the mortuary, swab taken and body preserved in cold storage till the Covid results come in, which takes a day or two,” said Dr Girish Chandra, professor, Forensic Medicine, M S Ramaiah Medical College. Last week, the mortuary at this hospital was full. Apart from Covid or suspected cases, the space also has to be made available for medico-legal cases, deaths by suicide, road accidents and non-Covid deaths. 

“There is a need for more ambulances and hearse vans. If deaths increase, there will be a shortage of cold storage facilities. Crematoriums will have to be kept open for longer hours,” Dr Chandra said. A health department rule passed on June 25 has made the process little easier, he added. It states that bodies of suspected Covid cases can be handed over to relatives immediately after swab collection and need not wait for test results. The body has to be disposed of as per Covid guidelines.

If a test returns positive then the required action of contact tracing should be carried out.  “If more Covid deaths occur then it will be a problem for mortuaries. The BBMP is taking time to check bodies and we need to figure out how to hasten the process,” said a doctor from Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, under condition of anonymity. BBMP Commissioner B H Anil Kumar was unreachable for comment.

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