Relatives made to identify body of Covid patient in morgue, Tamil Nadu hospital orders action

The relatives, in the video, were seen not wearing any PPE suits or even masks properly, which was a breach of Covid protocols.

A hospital in Tamil Nadu has ordered action after family members of a man, who succumbed to Covid, were made to enter the mortuary and identify his body. When the relatives entered the morgue, they reportedly found many bodies of Covid victims had not been disposed but kept there.

The incident took place at the Theni Government Medical College and Hospital in the state.

On Saturday, the man, 47, belonging to Periyakulam in Theni had complaints of breathlessness. On admission to the hospital, it was found he was Covid-19 positive but succumbed to the infection on Monday evening.

On reaching the hospital mortuary on Tuesday to claim the body, the relatives were asked by the security to find the body by themselves.

The video and images of the incident have gone viral on social media. Many slammed the hospital management for their carelessness. The relatives, in the video, were seen not wearing any PPE suits or even masks properly, which was a breach of Covid protocols.

Theni hospital authorities admit lapses

Speaking to, Dr Balaji Nathan, Dean of the Theni hospital, admitted that the incident is a clear security breach and departmental action has been initiated against three officials who were present on duty at the time of incident.

“We keep the dead bodies of persons either tested positive of Covid-19, in a separate room but that room cannot accommodate more than three or four bodies. If we receive more bodies, we place them at a distance on the floor. Bodies that reach the room before 6 pm are immediately taken to the crematoriums in the free mortuary van and due procedure is followed for the burial. Since we cannot dispose the bodies after 6 pm, we store them in the mortuary room till the next day,” he said.

He added, “On Monday evening, the said person died and his body was kept in the room alongside 15 other bodies, due to the lack of space and naturally piled up. Only one relative is allowed alongside our staff to identify the body but on Tuesday the security and two attendants in charge of the mortuary had allowed more than four relatives. It is a clear security lapse,” he said.

Two inquiries — one internal and a detailed probe by the head of the department, forensic medicine and resident medical officer — were conducted. Dr Nathan said after it was found that three officials failed to adequately perform their duties and a departmental action has been initiated against the two government staff members.

Separately, he has written to the regional manager of the concerned security agency to remove the security person at the mortuary from the service.

“To prevent such an incident from occurring again, we are planning to set up a big temporary shed with a rack facility to accommodate more bodies in the mortuary. Also, we are taking steps to attach tags to the bodies before sending them to the mortuary room thereby preventing the relatives from entering the mortuary to identify the bodies,” the dean said.

When asked about the reports of bodies not properly wrapped as per the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry, he said they follow the government guidelines of covering the body with double-wrapped thick polythene blue sheets.

“We are following the guidelines to make sure there is no leakage of body fluids. We have ordered zip lock body bags but the vendor has not delivered them yet due to the high volume. We will get that as soon as possible,” he said.

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