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Horrible mixup: Covid negative body buried instead of Covid+ body

Published May 13, 2020, 1:51 pm IST
Updated May 13, 2020, 1:51 pm IST
Family furious as authorities say the rules don't allow the body to be exhumed
Representative image only. (AFP)
 Representative image only. (AFP)

Kurnool: Sixty-six-year-old A Rambabu of Budhawarapeta locality died at the Kurnool Government General Hospital (KGGH) on Monday. Samples were taken from his body to test for Covid-19, as is the protocol now. His body was kept in the mortuary of the hospital while the test results were awaited.

On Tuesday, the test results came, negative, and his family was told to go to the mortuary to collect the body.


At the mortuary, the deceased man’s relatives were shocked when they were handed someone else’s body, a man much younger, to them. This was the body of a a 36-year-old person, who address tag said he was a resident of S Nagappa Street in Kurnool.

He had died the same day as Rambabu, and his samples too had been sent for testing. They had returned positive. So the records said the body was quickly buried.

To their horror, reality began to dawn on Rambabu’s family: if this man lying dead in the morgue was not Rambabu, where the hell was Rambabu’s body?


And if a body was indeed buried because they thought it was Covid-19 positive, was it possible that they buries Rambabu’s body and kept the Covid-positive man’s body in the morgue instead.

That’s exactly what happened.

Enraged, the relatives of Rambabu marched to the district collector’s office, demanding that the authorities exhume Rambabu’s body and hand it over to them to perform the last rites as per their family tradition.

The health authorities tried to convince them that exhuming the body from a burial place designated burial place for Covid victims would lead to further complications. Which bereaved family would accept that?


Now, the authorities have a problem: They have a Ccovid-19 body on hand, and they have to dig up a non-Covid body against all safety protocols.

Collector G. Veera Pandian, who has cut a sorry figure for the exponential growth of Covid-19 positive cases in Kurnool district, has appointed a three-member committee to find a solution to this problem.

Following this, the relatives called off their protest.

Inquiries revealed that the 36-year-old male was admitted to the hospital on May 9 with symptoms of Covid-19. Rambabu, 66, had been undergoing treatment in the same hospital since May 7 for some other ailment. Rambabu died on May 9 and the Covid patient on May 10.


 As the samples of both persons were sent for a Covid test, the hospital authorities did not hand over the bodies to their relatives but kept them in the mortuary.

“The results came back Monday and the staff made a mistake and sent the body of the 60-year-old man, who tested negative, to the designated burial ground for Covid patients and it was duly buried,” said Dr G. Narendranath Reddy, in-charge superintendent of KGGH.

Rambabu’s son Ramesh said, “We lost our father. He tested negative for Covid yet they buried him assuming it to be positive. As the eldest son, it is my responsibility to perform the last rites of my father and my failure to do so will haunt me my lifetime,” he told Deccan Chronicle, his voice choked with emotion.


It was found that the staff did not maintain records well. They even entered Rambabu’s name wrongly in the death report as well as the register as Kama Babu. The authorities rectified the name after the relatives complained.

“Such is the unprofessional and indifferent attitude of the staff,” lamented Ramesh.

Meanwhile, the collector constituted the committee with Kurnool Medical College Principal Dr Chandrasekhar, District Medical and Health Officer (DMHO) Dr Rama Giddaiah, and the KGGH superintendent. Dr Reddy said the body of the Covid patient was kept in the mortuary and would be buried at the Lakshmipuram Covid burial ground after duly informing his relatives of the protocols.


The DMHO said the relatives of the Covid patient have been quarantined.