The bodies of 22 COVID-19 victims were stuffed in one ambulance while being taken to a crematorium at Beed in Maharashtra, with the district administration citing lack of medical transport vehicles as the reason for it.
The incident took place on Sunday when the bodies, kept in the mortuary of the Swami Ramanand Teerth Rural Government Medical College at Ambajogai in Beed, were being transported for the last rites.
“This happened because the hospital administration does not have enough ambulances,” the medical college’s Dean, Dr Shivaji Sukre, told PTI on Tuesday.
He said they had five ambulances during the first wave of COVID-19 last year. Out of them, three were later withdrawn and the hospital was now managing the transportation of COVID-19 patients in two ambulances.
“Sometimes, it takes time to trace the relatives of a dead patient. The bodies from the COVID-19 centre at Lokhandi Sawargaon village are also sent to our facility as they don’t have a cold storage,” the official said.
He said they wrote to the district administration on March 17 to provide them three more ambulances. “To avoid the chaos, we have also written to the Ambajogai Municipal Council to conduct the last rites of the victims between 8 am and 10 pm and the bodies will be sent to the crematoriums from the hospital ward itself,” he said.
Ambajogai Municipal Council’s chief officer Ashok Sabale said it was the responsibility of the medical college to transport the bodies to the crematorium on Mandwa road (designated for the last rites of COVID-19 victims).
“Our teams are there at the crematorium for conducting the last rites. A meeting was held on Monday over the issue during which the medical college dean said they do not have enough ambulances. If it is the case, didn’t they have any review mechanism? Why didn’t they act on it?” Sabale asked.
Municipal council president Rajkishor also expressed concern over the incident and said the same day, eight more bodies were transported in another ambulance for cremation. “We are going to provide one ambulance to the medical college and another two will be made available from the district administration,” he said.