Covid deaths go uncounted as kin take bodies against medical advice in AP

Deccan Chronicle.

Nation, Crime

The families prefer this way as they do not want to miss the chance to bid final farewell and conduct last rites

This practice is very much prevalent in rural areas where family members take patients to hospitals in critical stage, and return with them when told there are no beds, oxygen or other facilities. (Representational Image/AFP)

Vijayawada: Several Covid-19 deaths are going unreported, especially at private hospitals as people are taking their loved ones home against medical advice when there were bleak chances of survival and performing last rites after their death in various parts of AP.

This practice is very much prevalent in rural areas where family members take patients to hospitals in critical stage, and return with them when told there are no beds, oxygen or other facilities. Such deaths are not being reported to the government. The families prefer this way as they do not want to miss the chance to bid final farewell and conduct last rites, because they would not be handed over the bodies if deaths were due to Covid-19. Though this practice is also found in urban centres, it is more prevalent in rural areas.

What is worrying is that people are taking back the sick home even if they are found to contract the viral infection, and thus are putting themselves at tirk. In Rajahmundry, a 63-year-old woman was infected with Coronavirus and was admitted in a private hospital. After a few days, as her oxygen levels dropped alarmingly, the hospital advised the family to shift her to any other hospital which has a ventilator. However, losing hope in her recovery, her son hired an ambulance to take her home and on the way, he even purchased a body bag and placed an order for a coffin. She died within a few hours of reaching home. Though it was a Covid-19 death, it went unaccounted for. Her family members buried her body at a burial ground as per their tradition. However, her husband and two sons were infected. Her husband is in critical care at KGH, Visakhapatnam.  A distant relative, who was asked to take care of her grandchildren aged 10 years and seven months, was also infected along with the older child. Though the child recovered, he lies in critical condition at KGH. The deceased woman’s daughter and son-in-law who wore PPE kits during the funeral were, however, not infected.

In another case at Kakinada, a 65-year-old retired employee was infected with the Coronavirus and was taken to the government hospital. His oxygen saturation was down to 80% and also the pulse rate was down. As they could not get a bed, the family made enquiries with some hospitals and called for an ambulance. By the time it arrived, the patient died. The body was taken home and the death went unreported.

A senior government doctor said, “If Covid-19 deaths fail to be reported properly, the state government may not be able to assess the gravity of the spread of virus and resultant deaths, and come up with a plan to tackle it. So, a mechanism should be evolved to report all such deaths. Covid-19 infected bodies should never be given to family members as it will result in spread of the virus. Covid-19 test should also be done on those who died due to other reasons to play safe.”

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