Telangana doctor drives tractor to transport Covid-19 victim’s body for last rites
Since there was no ambulance available in the hospital and the tractor driver refused to drive, the 45-year-old doctor decided to drive the vehicle to the cremation ground.Updated: Jul 13, 2020 21:31 IST
A doctor in Telangana on Sunday came forward to drive a tractor carrying the body of a Covid-19 victim to the cremation ground for last rites at a time when there have been instances of mishandling bodies .
Dr Pendyala Sriram, who works as a district medical surveillance officer in Pedapalli district, was on duty on Sunday when the Covid-19 patient died. Since there was no ambulance available in the hospital and the driver of the tractor provided by the municipal authorities refused to drive, the 45-year-old doctor decided to drive the vehicle to the cremation ground.
The incident came to light after a video showing Dr Sriram driving the tractor with the victim’s body was widely shared on social media.
According to Sriram, the patient died at around 9.30 am on Sunday. It was the first death at Peddapalli government hospital, though the district has reported eight deaths till now.
Watch: Doctor drives tractor to take Covid victim’s body to graveyard
“Since it was the first case in the district, the hospital staff also did not know how to handle the body of a Covid-19 victim, including its packing as per the protocol. In fact, there was a lone woman medical officer and some nurses at the hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital does not have a mortuary to preserve the body at a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius for a long time and there was not even an ambulance to carry a dead body, let alone a Covid-19 victim,” the doctor said.
On receiving a call from the hospital, Sriram reached the spot and understood the situation. “The hospital authorities were in a hurry to dispose of the body and the relatives were anxious. I immediately spoke to my superiors, police and the local municipal authorities to make arrangements for the disposal of the body,” he said.
Since there was no ambulance, the municipal authorities sent a tractor to carry the body. In the meantime, Sriram got the body packed as per the Covid-19 protocol. The tractor arrived, but the driver refused to carry the body. He left the vehicle there and ran away.
It was then that Dr Sriram decided to take the responsibility. He wore the personal protection equipment and asked the four family members of the victim to do the same. With their help, he placed the body in the tractor and then drove the body to the cremation ground, about two kilometres away and performed the last rites as per their customs.
“Since I do practise cultivation during the weekends in Karimnagar, I know how to drive a tractor. That came in handy for me in carrying the Covid-19 body in the tractor,” he said.
Dr Sriram said he was very much aware how much pain and agony the family members of a deceased person would undergo if there was a delay in handing over the body for cremation.
“In July 2018, I lost my 18-year-old son in a road accident in Bengaluru. And I had to struggle for nearly 20 hours to get his body from the hospital mortuary after post-mortem. I could see the same agony in the faces of the family members of Covid-19,” he said.
Disposal of bodies of Covid-19 victims has become a huge problem as many government officials and even family members in some cases have been refusing to handle the bodies for fear of contracting the virus.
There have been at least three incidents of mishandling of bodies of Covid-19 victims in the recent weeks, all from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
On July 10, the Nellore district administration in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh ordered a probe into an incident of the local municipal staff allegedly carrying the bodies of three Covid-19 victims in an earth mover and then dumping them into a grave, at a spot adjacent to Penna river.
On July 6, municipal authorities in Tirupati had also used an earth mover to lift the body of a Covid-19 victim from the ambulance and then dumped it into a grave.
On June 26, the municipal staff in Palasa town in Srikakulam district used an earth mover to carry the body of a Covid-19 victim from his house for last rites, after the victim’s relatives refused to perform the last rites. On chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s instructions, the district authorities suspended six municipal employees over the incident.