While the rains brought the city to a standstill, two doctors, Prasad Bhatanglikar and Lochan Patil, conducted postmortems of the victims. With hardly any breaks, a team of 34 workers, including cutters, loaders and attendants assisted them at Bhagwati Hospital
As the city witnessed one of its most tragic illicit liquor casualty cases in Malvani unfold on Wednesday, the prompt action taken by the doctors manning the postmortem centres ensured that the families of the victims faced no trouble in receiving the bodies of their beloved. These medical professionals worked relentlessly on Friday, when the deluge had brought the city to its knees.
Relatives of victims of the liquor tragedy perform last rites at the Malvani crematorium on Saturday
Two doctors from the Bhagwati and Cooper post-mortem centres conducted over 74 autopsies in 48 hours at the Bhagwati postmortem centre. Dr Prasad Bhatanglikar (from Cooper) and Dr Lochan Patil worked under the supervision of two senior forensic doctors and were supported by a group of 34 workers, including cutters, loaders and postmortem attendants.
They made sure that their duties were put ahead of personal priorities, to attend to the steady flow of bodies coming to the centre. The Malvani hooch tragedy has claimed 95 people in the matter of three days, and 23 victims are being treated in different hospitals of the city.
The first casualty occured on Thursday morning after a victim was announced dead at Shatabdi Hospital during treatment. The toll kept rising and the Bhagwati centre was alerted by the authorities about the possible excessive workload that it might have to handle.
Dr Shivaji Kachre, administrative head, Nagpada Police Hospital, who was overseeing the proceedings in the absence of Dr SM Patil, police surgeon, said that he made sure that the centre was equipped to handle the excess load that was expected.
(L-R) Dr Lochan Patil of Bhagwati Hospital and Dr Prasad Bhatanglikar of Cooper Hospital
"We were notified that the number of casualties might go up and we were prepared to handle them accordingly. Friday, being the second day of the incident, was expected to be the most exhaustive day and it eventually happened to be so," said Kachre.
The Bhagwati postmortem centre handles around 10-12 bodies a day. It conducted 54 postmortems on deluge-devastated Friday. Work went on relentlessly, day and night, under the supervision of senior doctors Shantanu Chavan and Kachre. The team ensured that none of the relatives were inconvenienced due to the huge influx of bodies.
Dr Patil said that even if he had not been assigned to work for the day, he would've joined the team, considering the number of bodies coming in. "I had some work in the coming week and had to go out of town because of which I asked my seniors if I could work on Friday and Saturday.
When we were notified about the incident, our only thought was to ensure that the work is completed within the stipulated timeframe so that no inconvenience is caused. We delegated the work and took assistance from the policemen. With the help of support staff, completed all the postmortems without causing delay."
Doctors not only ensured that the staff worked within tight deadlines, but also sponsored the food for the team from their own pockets. "Doctors ordered for food on Friday and ensured that nobody skipped lunch when the work was being carried out.
It rarely happens that the seniors think about the plight of their staff members, but we were lucky that way," said a staff member. There were a total of 34 people, including the original staff of 12 from Bhagwati centre, who helped the two doctors during their marathon schedule.
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While Friday was the most exhausting day for the team, work started early morning on Saturday too, when the centre conducted over 20 postmortems and completed the documentation of the bodies from the previous days. Till the end of Saturday, over 74 postmortems were done and 69 families had received the dead bodies of their victims. Five families have yet to claim the bodies.
The total number of deaths so far
Number of autopsies that the Bhagwati postmortem centre conducts daily
Postmortems conducted on Friday