Photograph of body lying next to patient goes viral, stirs up a controversy

The Health Department ordered a probe on Tuesday after a photograph of a packed body lying next to a patient in a COVID-19 ward at the Stanley Government Medical College Hospital went viral.

However, the probe found that the photo was taken before the body, packed as per protocol, was removed for burial. According to sources in the hospital, a 65-year-old patient, who tested positive for COVID-19, and admitted on June 13, died on Monday morning. The body was packed as per norms and kept on the bed for clearance of the Resident Medical Officer before being shifted to the mortuary.

Another COVID-19 patient in the ward took a photograph on his mobile phone and passed it on to his contacts. The allegation is that the packed body was lying on the bed for eight hours, when other patients were lying in adjacent beds. After the photograph was widely circulated, Stanley Government Medical College Hospital dean P. Balaji ordered an enquiry by a team, led by T. Sivakumar, head of the General Surgery Department.

Protocol followed

The team conducted an investigation on Tuesday and submitted its report in an hour. It was found that the patient died at 8 a.m. on Monday and a screen was put around the body after the death was certified. In about two hours, the formalities were completed and the body was shifted to the mortuary.

“The photograph must have been taken when the body was about to be shifted to the mortuary after the surrounding screens were removed. As per guidelines for the safe disposal of the body of a COVID-19 patient, a Chennai Corporation official was informed. The relatives of the patient were also informed about the death. The burial was done as per government norms at 5.30 p.m. on Monday,” the report said.

It added that the allegation that the body was lying next to a patient undergoing treatment was false.

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