Mob vandalises JPMC ward after hospital's refusal to hand over Covid-19 patient's body

Updated May 15, 2020

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A broken glass counter is seen at the vandalised JPMC ward. — Photo: Facebook
A broken glass counter is seen at the vandalised JPMC ward. — Photo: Facebook

Over a dozen people barged into and vandalised the isolation ward at Karachi's Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), late on Thursday evening, after a coronavirus patient being treated there died, officials said.

The violence occurred after the hospital's administration refused to hand over the patient's body to the family.

The mob managed to take the patient's body outside the ward but it was brought back inside after Rangers personnel arrived at the scene.

Videos taken of the ward, where 37 Covid-19 patients were being treated, after the attack showed pieces of glass, furniture and fans strewn on the floor. The glass windows of a counter were also shattered.

At least eight to nine people were arrested after police and Rangers were called to the facility, JPMC Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali told Dawn.com.

Glass strewn on the floor of the ward. — Photo: Facebook
Glass strewn on the floor of the ward. — Photo: Facebook

According to the JPMC director, a 60-year-old man was brought to the hospital from the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Ojha campus in critical condition. He had pulmonary issues, fever and a cough and his attendants were counselled about his condition time and again, she said.

The attendants weren’t allowed to go upstairs where the patient was admitted. However, after he passed away, a huge crowd gathered outside the facility before bursting inside and ransacking the ward.

At least eight staff nurses, as many doctors, two ward boys, a receptionist, two janitors besides gatekeepers and security staff were present at the ward when the incident occurred.

A view of the vandalised ward. — Photo: JPMC admin
A view of the vandalised ward. — Photo: JPMC admin

No one was injured in the incident. "But the mob broke the doors, glass windows, ceiling fans, tables, computers ... everything they could lay their hands on," Dr Jamali said.

"When a Covid-19 patient dies, the hospital administration calls the district health officer, who arranges the ghusl (bathing of a body) and burial with Edhi staff. They bury the body in a far-off graveyard," explained Dr Jamali.

"I would suggest that we rethink this policy of not allowing the family to see the deceased," she said. "They are someone's loved one. Give the family proper hazmat suits and let them wash the body and bury them."

While noting that it is "an emotionally challenging time for everyone", Dr Jamali said: "I would just request people not to ransack hospitals like this. Doctors are risking their lives to save yours."

Meanwhile, Saddar Station House Office Arshad Afridi said eight people have been detained following the incident. He added, however, that an FIR had not been registered yet as police were "talking to the hospital management" about it.

Asked about the FIR, Dr Jamali told Dawn.com that the police wanted the hospital administration to file a complaint. "Why should I file a complaint? This is a public hospital. It's the state's responsibility to provide security. If I register an FIR and tomorrow these people attack me for retribution, who will be responsible then?" she questioned.