In a shocking incident, a family-based in North Kolkata in West Bengal was compelled to store the dead body of their elderly family member, who later turned out to be Coronavirus positive, in an ice-cream freezer for two days after the doctor refused to issue a death certificate without the COVID-19 test results, urging the family to contact the health department or the police. Multiple city mortuaries also turned them away demanding a COVID-19 test report and the death certificate, citing protocols.
According to reports, the elderly visited the doctor after complaining of breathing distress. The doctor conducted a Coronavirus test on him, but the man died on Monday before the test results arrived. The test report came on Tuesday and confirmed that the septuagenarian was coronavirus positive.
Only after 48-hours, did the health department workers arrive to take the body away. The building in which the man lived was sanitised 50 hours after he died.
The family in Kolkata made distress calls to the health department, civic authorities, police and politicians, but to no avail
After the man died on Monday, the family called a doctor. The doctor said that the man probably died due to heart attack, but refused to issue a death certificate as his Coronavirus test result was not available yet. The doctor advised them to preserve the body til the report comes. Accordingly, the family carried the body to multiple morgues in the city, but all of them refused to keep the body in the absence of the test result.
After that, the family ran pillar to post, but to no avail. They allegedly made an endless number of calls. They first called the police, which directed the family to the local councillor, who reportedly didn’t respond. Calls to the health department, civic authorities, the police and politicians also did not help.
As the body started decomposing by the next day, the family decided to buy an ice-cream freezer to preserve it. “We even made several calls to the helpline given to us by a person when we called up the health department but nobody responded,” said a family member quoted by Press Trust of India. “Calls were not answered. That’s why decided to keep his body at home inside a freezer,” the family member said.
“In fact even after getting the test reports we kept on calling the state health department but there was no response. On Wednesday morning, health department finally called up and set the process in motion for removing the body for last rites,” he said.
According to reports, the man’s body was collected by health department workers after a full 48 hours for cremation.
This incident throws light on the casual approach adopted by the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government to handle the coronavirus crisis and also highlights the complete lack of coordination among agencies dealing with COVID situations.
But the police have denied the allegations of non-cooperation, saying that they were just following the protocol for handling bodied of Coronavirus victims. They said that they were informed by the laboratory that the report will not be available on Monday, the day of the death, and they received the report and death certification only at 11 PM on Tuesday. Because of this, the body was collected on Wednesday only.
A senior official of the health department admitted to “miscommunication” that led to the family buying a freezer to preserve the body. The official added that the family should have insisted on admitting the patient at a hospital, considering his age. Another doctor said that even after the death, had the body been taken to a government hospital, the harassment could have been minimised, as the body would have been kept at the hospital morgue until the Coronavirus report arrived.