On Sunday, a doctor in Telangana stepped ahead for driving a tractor to carry the body of a Covid-19 victim to the cremation ground for the last rites at a time when there have been instances of mishandling bodies.
Dr. Pendyala Sriram working as a district medical surveillance officer in the Pedapalli district was on duty on Sunday when the Covid-19 patient breathed his last. Due to the unavailability of an ambulance in the hospital and after the refusal of the tractor driver to drive provided by the municipal authorities, the 45-year-old doctor took this decision to drive the vehicle to the cremation ground.
The incident came to light after a video was widely shared on social media that shows Dr. Sriram driving the tractor with the victim’s body.
As per Sriram, the patient died on Sunday at around 9.30 am. It was recorded as the first death at Peddapalli government hospital, though the district has reported eight deaths till now.
“Since it was the first case in the district, the hospital staff also did not know how to handle the body of a Covid-19 victim, including its packing as per the protocol. In fact, there was a lone woman medical officer and some nurses at the hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital does not have a mortuary to preserve the body at a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius for a long time and there was not even an ambulance to carry a dead body, let alone a Covid-19 victim,” said the doctor.
On receiving a call from the hospital, Sriram reached the spot and understood the situation. He said, “The hospital authorities were in a hurry to dispose of the body and the relatives were anxious. I immediately spoke to my superiors, police, and the local municipal authorities to make arrangements for the disposal of the body.”
Since there was zero availability of the ambulance, the municipal authorities sent a tractor to carry the body. In the meantime, Sriram got the body packed as per the Covid-19 protocol. The tractor arrived, but the driver refused to carry the body. He left the vehicle there and ran away.
It was then that Dr. Sriram took the decision to take responsibility. He got ready wearing the personal protection equipment and asked the four family members of the victim to do the same. He placed the body in the tractor with the help of the victim’s family members and then drove the body to the cremation ground that is about two kilometers away, and performed the last rites as per their customs.
“Since I do practice cultivation during the weekends in Karimnagar, I know how to drive a tractor. That came in handy for me in carrying the Covid-19 body in the tractor,” told Sriram.
Dr. Sriram said he was very much aware of how much pain and agony the family members of a deceased person would undergo if there was a delay in handing over the body for cremation.
He told, “In July 2018, I lost my 18-year-old son in a road accident in Bengaluru. And I had to struggle for nearly 20 hours to get his body from the hospital mortuary after post-mortem. I could see the same agony in the faces of the family members of Covid-19.”
Disposal of corpses of Covid-19 victims has become a huge problem as many government officials and even family members in some cases refuse to handle the bodies for fear of contracting the virus.