HYDERABAD: Handling of bodies of patients who purportedly die from coronavirus is becoming increasingly difficult at Liaquat University Hospital as bereaved relatives often refuse to submit to the government’s SOPs for Covid-19 patients’ bodies and have angry confrontations with doctors and other hospital staff.
The hospital management has not yet received modified SOPs for burial whereby the government has recently relaxed the earlier tougher conditions and allowed normal rituals for the Covid-19 victims.
An unpleasant incident took place outside Covid-19 isolation ward in LUH late on Thursday night when a 50-year-old woman was declared a coronavirus patient after her death.
LUH medial superintendent Dr Shahid Junejo said: “The woman was brought to hospital with complaint of acute respiratory distress that forced doctors to go for her coronavirus test. Sample was taken but in the meantime the woman died in medicine ward where a portion has been segregated for suspected Covid-19 patients.
“After receiving her report from laboratory we declined to hand over the body to family members and they flew into rage after hearing their relative was Covid-19 patient,” said LUH’s focal person for Covid-19 Dr Aftab Hussain Phull.
He said that as per standard operating procedures (SOPs) the hospital management could not hand over such body to relatives directly.
“Over two dozen persons present in the hospital got furious and tried to scuffle with us and hospital staff after we told them that the patient had coronavirus infection. We had to seek police help as a last resort,” said the focal person.
He said the body was finally handed over to Edhi volunteers for burial in the presence of police. “Bereaved members of her family kept showing anger and said we are treating their relative as coronavirus patient because we will get money for it,” said Dr Phull.
A similar incident occurred in LUH two days back when bereaved family members tried to manhandle hospital staff outside Covid-19 ward, claiming that their patient had not contracted the virus.
They forced the hospital staff to hand over the body to them and also offered funeral prayers outside the Covid-19 ward after pressurising the staff.
Dr Phull said: “It is extremely difficult to prevail upon family members of such victims and convince them that their relative did have the virus”. The LUH now needed more security because the hospital’s private security guards would not be able to handle the situation alone, he said.
“Police will have to be deployed outside the Covid-19 ward to ensure proper security of health staff and doctors lest an unpleasant incident recurs inside the hospital,” said the focal person.
Sindh government had recently allowed normal funeral rites for the Covid-19 patients. According to the official document, except shrouding, there is no need for government or administration personnel to get or remain involved in the last rites. The body should be handed over to the heirs for funeral and burial.
MS Dr Junejo said that he had not yet received the revised SOPs for the bodies’ management. “We have to disinfect the area and handle the patient’s body carefully. But bereaved family member don’t trust us anymore and they accuse us of so many things. We are faced with a very difficult situation”.
Two more Covid-19 patients die in Hyderabad
Two more Covid-19 patients — both women — died in the city on Friday, raising tally of deaths from the virus to 33 since the outbreak of pandemic.
An 80-year-old woman died at Combined Military Hospital on Thursday night and the other woman died at Liaquat University Hospital’s city branch. She was brought to LUH with complaint of respiratory distress and her test report declared her to be Covid-19 patient after death.
Hyderabad has so far seen 745 coronavirus patients out of whom 378 patients have recovered, 341 are active patients and 269 are in home isolation, according to data compiled by district health officer.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020