Bodies lie in Covid-19 ward in Patna’s NMCH, a hospital without mortuary
A Hindustan Times photographer was witness to a 62-year-old Danapur woman dying inside a private ambulance van at the portico of the emergency ward of the NMCH after she was reportedly denied admission.Updated: Jul 20, 2020, 21:37 IST
Pictures of a body lying in the isolation ward of the Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH), a dedicated Covid-19 government facility in Patna have gone viral in Patna on Monday, a day after a Central team visited it and advised the Bihar government to improve hospital management
An attendant of a Covid-19 patient, who shot the pictures from the Covid ward of the NMCH, claimed that the body had been lying there since Sunday. Seven patients were being treated in the room where the body was lying, he said.
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“My mother has stopped eating since last afternoon. The body is lying on the bed adjacent to hers, and her condition has begun to deteriorate,” said Shatrughan, whose mother is being treated for Covid-19 for the past one week.
He said the body had been covered with a thin ‘gumcha’ (cotton towel) and a large part of it was exposed, causing anxiety among other patients undergoing treatment in the room.
The Union health ministry’s guidelines on management of the body of a Covid-19 casualty say, “Place the dead body in leak-proof plastic body bag. The exterior of the body bag can be decontaminated with 1% hypochlorite.”
The attendant claimed that he had complained to the nurses and hospital staff and everyone assured him that the body would be taken out of the room in an hour, but it had not been done.
This was not the only instance of lapse in patient care at the NMCH.
Saurabh Gupta, attendant of another patient, alleged that two bodies were lying in yet another isolation ward at the NMCH since Sunday. A total of five deaths were reported at the NMCH on Monday.
Gupta claimed that no doctor had come to attend to the patients in the ward since Sunday, compelling him to take a voluntary discharge of his relative from the hospital and shift him to the AIIMS-Patna.
Gupta said the immediate relatives of the patient were made to sign a form that they were taking the patient against medical advice, before allowing the patient to leave.
“We had no other option and we signed the form because we could not have left our patient to die at the NMCH, where there was none to either dispose of the bodies or doctors to personally attend to patients,” he claimed.
A Hindustan Times photographer was witness to a 62-year-old Danapur woman dying inside a private ambulance van at the portico of the emergency ward of the NMCH after she was reportedly denied admission. Two of her sons had taken her to the NMCH at around 11.30 am on Monday, but she died in about an hour without any doctor attending to her.
The woman was on oxygen support following respiratory distress.
Asha Garg, 70, who recovered from Covid-19 after undergoing treatment at the NMCH between June 16 and July 3, had also claimed that a body remained in the ward for 24 hours.
“We were treated as untouchables. Forget doctors, even nurses would not come despite our request in case of emergency. They would keep our medicines outside the ward and call us out to collect them, avoiding any physical contact with us,” she said.
“All through the 17 days of my stay at the NMCH, no physician ever came to attend to me or any of the patients in the ward I was admitted. The doctors enquired about condition of patients on mobile phones and communicated through the nurses,” she added.
NMCH principal Dr Hiralal Mahto defended the hospital administration.
“There’s a protocol for disposal of bodies of Covid-19 patients. The five deaths had taken place on Monday morning and we had left the bodies there (on beds in wards) for disposal in the evening, as the crematorium at Bans Ghat receives these bodies only after 8pm,” said Dr Mahto.
He did not say why the bodies were not immediately put in plastic body bags.
Shockingly, the hospital does not even have a mortuary. “The hospital does not have a mortuary though there is one at the medical college.”
The distance between its medical college and hospital is around 3.5 km.
He denied allegations that doctors and nurses were not attending to the patients at the Covid-19 hospital. “We have sufficient protective gear and all our doctors and nurses are promptly attending to all patients,” he added.
He also denied that the number of dissatisfied patients leaving the hospital against medical advice was increasing.
Patna district magistrate Kumar Ravi, who visited NMCH later in the evening, said: “The bodies should have been kept in the mortuary. There are some administrative issues, which we are trying to resolve and have extended all possible cooperation to the authorities at the NMCH.”
A three-member Central team, headed by Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the ministry of health and family welfare (MoH&FW) had visited the NMCH to assess its condition on Sunday. Other team members were Dr SK Singh, director National Centre for Disease Control, and associate professor of AIIMS-Delhi Dr Neeraj Nischal.