COVID-19 in Mumbai: Man waits with mother's body for 8 hours before civic ambulance arrives

Updated: Jun 24, 2020, 07:55 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

As VVCMC officials came late to take away the 56-year-old who had died of suspected COVID-19, son arranges for black plastic bag and kerosene, wraps body himself

This picture has been used for representation purpose
This picture has been used for representation purpose

The family of a 56-year-old woman, who died of suspected COVID-19, had to wait seven hours with her body in their flat at Sai Nagar in Vasai West for a civic team to arrive with an ambulance.

When the civic team failed to reach their house even after seven hours, the woman's son himself wrapped the body after arranging for a black plastic bag and kerosene oil that are required as per rules.

While the woman died around 2.30 on Monday, the civic officials arrived only around 9.30 pm, after telling the family throughout the time that the ambulance would reach in 20 minutes.

The man had to buy a black plastic bag and kerosene to wrap his mother's body
The man had to buy a black plastic bag and kerosene to wrap his mother's body

"My mother had been coughing from Sunday, so I took her to a general physician on Monday. When we were returning home, she started running out of breath while climbing the stairs to reach the third floor," her 34-year-old son told mid-day.

"She somehow managed to reach home and then complained of chest pain. After a few minutes, she breathed her last around 2.30 pm," her son told mid-day.

"I immediately contacted the Corona Control Unit number 0250-2334546 to reach out to doctors. After my call, three nurses visited our house and suggested that we not come out of the house as my mother may have died of COVID-19. The nurses had told me that a team would soon visit with a hearse (mortuary vehicle) to take her body," he added.

Hours passed but the civic doctors kept telling him that the ambulance was on its way. "It had been around seven hours but no vehicle had come. After pleading with them for hours to come and take my mother's body, I finally wrapped her body in the recommended plastic sheet," her son said. However, despite photographs with this paper that show the contrary, civic doctor Dr Sameer Gulekar claims that his team visited the spot and wrapped the body.

Assistant Municipal Commissioner Gilson Gonsalves told mid-day, "On Monday, there were 14 suspected COVID-19 deaths in the Vasai-Virar area. We only have one team to handle corpses. Each team comprises four ward boys and two doctors."

"The team takes time to wrap up bodies as they too have to keep themselves protected from the virus. Wrapping of bodies as per guidelines is a lengthy procedure, and later it is taken to Nalasopara for cremation. When I spoke to the doctor and the team, they had just reached the deceased's house to take her body away to the funeral site in Manvelpada in Nalasopara," Gonsalves added.

Son, father's swabs taken
On Tuesday, a civic team collected the nasal and throat swabs of the deceased's son and her husband. "The Vasai-Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC) staff members have told us to remain home quarantined for 14 days," said the son.

Praveen Shetty, mayor of Vasai-Virar city, said, "It is shocking to know that a family had to wait with the body for seven hours. We will set up an enquiry into the matter and whosoever is found guilty, will be punished."

14
No. of people who died of COVID-19 in Vasai-Virar on Monday

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