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Indian Hospital Told Family of COVID-19 Patient He Was Alive After They Had Cremated Him

A case of mistaken identity and poor management by the hospital turned devastating for a family in Gujarat.
01 June 2020, 8:03am
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This article originally appeared on VICE IN.

In a tragic series of events, a family in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat had to deal with a case of mistaken identities and poor communication by a hospital earlier this week. On May 28, a patient was admitted to the COVID-19 ward of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital with symptoms of the virus. He died the next day before the results of his samples could come from the laboratory. However, in accordance with the protocol, his body was covered in PPE and handed back to his family, who cremated him soon after, as per the hospital instructions.

“He died on May 29 and the hospital handed over his body, which was completely wrapped, and out of fear of the infection, we did not open the cover to see his face also,” said Nilesh Nikte, the son-in-law of the deceased, to The Hindu. “We reached home walking all the way from Vadaj crematorium to Viratnagar and in the morning we were informed that he was alive.”

The morning after the cremation, the family received multiple phone calls from the hospital saying that the coronavirus report of the patient had tested negative and he would be shifted to the general ward. However, after rushing to the hospital confused about whether their relative was in fact alive, the family found out that it was a mistake made by the control room. They had mistakenly informed that the patient was alive based on his negative test results, when in fact, he had died the day before.

After inquiries from local media houses, the hospital said in a statement, “It was a mistake of the [control room] person, who informed the relative without checking the patient's status and asked them to facilitate shifting of the patient on the basis of the negative report for COVID-19 test.”

However, this is not the first time that Ahmedabad Civil Hospital has come under fire for its poor management. A week ago, the Gujarat High Court criticised the State authorities over the poor health infrastructure at the Civil Hospital, calling it “as good as a dungeon, maybe even worse”. It also directed the State to form a committee of independent doctors to probe the conditions at the hospital where almost 400 coronavirus patients have already died.

Currently, on the morning of June 21, Gujarat is the fourth highest infected state after Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi respectively—with 16,343 cases and 1,007 deaths. The COVID-19 toll in India stands at 1,91,000, while the death toll stands at 5,394. In just less than a week, India moved from being the 10th worst-hit country to now standing at the seventh position on the list of countries with the most number of coronavirus cases.

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