Narrow caskets leave no room for the dead in two BMC morgues

Renovation work at the mortuaries at Rajawadi and Cooper hospitals has been stalled, as the new steel caskets now have to be replaced because they are a foot narrower than the standard size too small to fit larger bodies

It seems even the dead can have trouble finding room in this city. Two BMC mortuaries have been closed for over two months as renovation work drags on there, and the project has been delayed further after 110 new stainless steel caskets were found to be too small to hold cadavers and had to be discarded.

The stainless steel caskets were too narrow, and couldn’t accommodate bodies with hefty frames or cadavers swollen from drowning. The handles on them were not placed well, and would have made it impossible for staffers to lift the bodies
The stainless steel caskets were too narrow, and couldn’t accommodate bodies with hefty frames or cadavers swollen from drowning. The handles on them were not placed well, and would have made it impossible for staffers to lift the bodies

The post-mortem centres at Rajawadi and Cooper hospitals have been under renovation since February 25, after it was discovered that faulty cooling was impairing the proper storage of cadavers. The authorities decided to completely revamp the morgues in a period of 20 days but the work has dragged on long beyond its March-end deadline.

In the meanwhile, the closure of the mortuaries had resulted in great inconvenience to police personnel and the kin of the deceased who now have to travel all the way to either JJ or Bhagwati hospitals instead. Things started to look worse after a recent inspection, when the authorities found that the storage caskets for the dead bodies were badly designed.

The caskets were too narrow, which meant they couldn’t accommodate bodies with hefty frames or cadavers swollen from drowning. Standard caskets are generally sized 3X7 feet, while the new ones were a tighter fit at 2X7 feet. To add to this complication, the walls on the casket were also too high; this would have made it difficult to remove a body if it was to get lodged inside.

“Even the handles on the sides are not well placed, so there is a possibility that when we try lifting the casket, the body will shift to one side, making it impossible for us to carry it,” said a porter at Cooper Hospital, on the condition of anonymity. A total of 110 such caskets had been ordered 59 for Cooper and 51 for Rajawadi, but all of them have been discarded due to the faulty design.

The hospitals will now either have these reconstructed or procure other caskets to fit the necessary specifications.

Official speak
“The caskets were reviewed and we will get a fresh batch of bigger caskets to store larger or taller bodies. There is absolutely no miscommunication or hassles faced by anybody in the meanwhile. Everything is well-coordinated. If there is a delay, it is only to ensure that proper work is done,” said police surgeon Dr S M Patil, in-charge of all BMC mortuaries.

Raising a stink
While Rajawadi Hospital’s morgue is 27 years old, the one at Cooper was started 35 years ago. Both mortuaries were forced to close down for renovation in February due to the faulty cooling, which was spoiling the cadavers and raising a stink. “Due to faulty cooling, the bodies used to start decomposing and stinking faster than usual. It created a menace for the working staff. Hence, after making requests, the authorities finally agreed to take on the renovation,” said a staff member at Cooper Hospital.

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