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Mumbai Hospital Hands Over Patient's Body Without Covid-19 Test Results. Now, Nearly 500 People Are at Risk

Hospital staff dressed in protective gear carry empty stretchers from a morgue towards a hospital in Mumbai. (Representative photo: AP)

Hospital staff dressed in protective gear carry empty stretchers from a morgue towards a hospital in Mumbai. (Representative photo: AP)

The Cardinal Gracious Hospital in Mumbai’s Vasai area handed over the body of a man, who passed away on Thursday, to his family without waiting for the COVID-19 test report. He was cremated on the same day with nearly 500 people in attendance for his last rites.

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A hospital’s negligence over releasing a patient’s body before the arrival of its COVID-19 test result has left hundreds of people at risk in Mumbai even as India’s economic capital struggles to defeat the fast spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The Cardinal Gracious Hospital in Mumbai’s Vasai area handed over the body of a man, who passed away on Thursday, to his family without waiting for the COVID-19 test report. He was cremated on the same day with nearly 500 people in attendance for his last rites, the Mumbai Mirror reported.

The next morning, the hospital informed the family that the deceased has tested positive for COVID-19, and panic ensued. However, over 40 people, who were identified as high-risk contacts, were immediately quarantined.

According to the protocol, bodies are to be tested for coronavirus before they are released for cremation to the kin to prevent further spread of the disease.

“A 55-year-old man from Arnala, who was admitted to the hospital with acute liver problem, had died during treatment on Thursday early morning. His body was sent for COVID-19 tests, as is the norm, but the hospital didn’t wait for the report,” a civic authority official was quoted by the report.

The body was then taken to the deceased’s village in Arnala and the final rites were conducted.

A day after, the hospital informed the family members that the man had tested positive for the virus, leaving them in shock.

“As soon as the administration came to know about the incident, they started contact-tracing and zeroed in on 40 people who are at high-risk. We have quarantined them since they participated in the funeral rituals and came in close contact with the body. We are also screening the other attendees,” Dr. Balasaheb Jadhav, Vasai taluka health officer, said.

“It’s because of the hospital’s callousness that people’s lives are now at risk. We have served a notice to the hospital and an inquiry will be conducted following which action will be taken,” he added.

Meanwhile, the hospital management has rejected all allegations and claimed that all the necessary precautions were taken. Flory De monte, General Manager of the hospital, said, "The man wasn’t admitted as a coronavirus patient. We were getting several calls to release the body. It was also the responsibility of the relatives to maintain social distancing during cremation," adding that COVID-19 test reports take a long time to come.

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