Coronavirus outbreak: Sion hospital sets up dedicated morgue for COVID-19 deaths

Updated: 14 April, 2020 07:33 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

In a first in Maharashtra, a section of the morgue that would sometimes house bodies of well-known people, will now serve COVID-19 dead

The move will ensure that bodies of those killed by Coronavirus do not come in contact with other bodies
The move will ensure that bodies of those killed by Coronavirus do not come in contact with other bodies

The Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General (LTMG) Hospital, popularly known as Sion Hospital, has become the first civic-run teaching hospital in the state to have a dedicated mortuary for patients who die of Coronavirus. This has been done to ensure that the Coronavirus-affected bodies do not come in contact with other bodies, thereby mitigating the risk of community transmission.

BYL Nair hospital has dedicated six cabinets for those killed by COVID-19 but at its existing mortuary. The step was taken at the direction of civic chief Praveen Pardeshi and executed by the department of forensic medicine and toxicology at LTMG hospital.

"We are preparing ourselves for all eventualities. During my visit to LTMG and Nair hospitals a few weeks ago, it was found that there are many unclaimed bodies lying in the mortuary for months together. We disposed of these bodies with the help of police and made special mortuary units to keep bodies of the Coronavirus-affected till the police complete formalities," Pardeshi told mid-day.

The move will ensure that bodies of those killed by Coronavirus do not come in contact with other bodies

"LTMG Hospital has 16 cabinets and Nair has six and these many are sufficient for now. We may rope in KEM and Cooper hospitals if the need arises. But such a setup is not required in peripheral hospitals," Pardeshi added.

Dr Rajesh Dhere, Professor and Head of Department (Forensic Medicine and Toxicology) at LTMG hospital, said, "We have made a first of its kind, separate cold storage with 16 cabinets only to keep bodies of suspected Coronavirus cases. The section has an entry and exit separate from the existing mortuary that has 38 racks. There is further separation of identified and unidentified bodies so that relatives or claimants of identified bodies do not get distressed going through all the bodies."

LTMG hospital in the past few weeks has come across eight to 10 cases where patients were declared brought dead. All such cases now are being treated as suspected COVID-19 deaths. "Until police identify relatives, record statements and issue No Objection Certificate (NOC), such bodies will be preserved in the special COVID-19 mortuary," said Dr Dhere.

On Sunday, a man who had COVID-19 symptoms was found dead at Wadala. His family said that he had been on the way to the doctor's clinic. "We found he had an underlying heart ailment that led to his death. Such bodies cannot be kept in the COVID-19 mortuary as it could get infected," explained Dr Dhere.

According to Dr Dhere, "Since the lockdown began, stopping local trains and limiting vehicular movements, the daily two to three accident cases have almost stopped. Now we come across suicides and deaths due to existing ailments. Accidental deaths have reduced drastically."

"The special COVID-19 mortuary is sprayed with disinfectants daily. Our staff has been trained to spray the walls with sodium hypochlorite solution. As per the directives, bodies brought to this mortuary will be kept for a few hours. Police have to trace families and dispose of the bodies at the earliest," said Dr Dhere.

A forensic surgeon from Nair hospital confirmed that they have preserved six rakes from the existing eighteen rakes to keep bodies of COVID-19-affected patients as they do not have a separate facility available.

mid-day reached out to Police Surgeon Dr S M Patil regarding a similar set-up at the five post mortem centres in the city (Rajawadi hospital, Cooper hospital, Bhagwati hospital, Siddarth hospital and JJ hospital). "These civic-run medical colleges are the ones where suspected patients are declared dead and then the police are informed. Since the home department has issued directives that patients who die of Coronavirus must be cremated or buried immediately, the onus is on the police to trace the kin, complete all formalities, issue NOC and then dispose of the body. Post mortem centres have no role here, as presumed earlier. We are not doing autopsies in cases where the cause of death is already issued and police have accepted the same," Dr Patil said.

No. of cabinets for COVID-19 deaths at Sion hospital

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First Published: 14 April, 2020 07:15 IST

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