There are people waiting outside to identify the dead bodies, some of them can be seen weeping, and others curiously peeping through the windows to catch a glimpse of an autopsy. Due to the overpowering stench most of the people stand covering their mouths with hands, tissues or even their own clothes. This scene can been seen in front of any mortuary but the Gandhi Medical College and Hospital mortuary has a much sorrier tale to tell.
Of the 36 freezers to store the deceased bodies, only 12 are working. And for the number of dead bodies that are sent here for post mortem, this falls woefully short. In fact, six freezers that don’t have air conditioning are placed outside the mortuary. The worst part, however, is that at times when none of the working freezers are available, they are used to store the dead bodies. This decays the bodies further.
The freezers inside aren’t in a better condition either. In most of the freezers, the air conditioning doesn’t work, and even if it does work, it seems to be inadequate. The mortuary itself is in a pathetic condition and the unhygienic and dirty premises add to the foul odour.
A total of 344 bodies have been bought to this mortuary this year (from January up to June 14). A considerable number of dead bodies are left unidentified. The Gandhi Hospital mortuary gets an average of seven bodies for autopsy, out of which at least three lie unidentified.
Even the pit room, where the entire room acts as a freezer, does not suffice. For a long time now, the freezers have not been working, but are often used as an alternative to store the bodies. The unidentified bodies are treated with utter disregard. The absence of proper temperatures leads to faster decomposition of the bodies, adding to the stench.
The unidentified bodies are then supposed to be handed over to the Sri Satya Harish Chandra Foundation that takes the unidentified bodies for cremation. Often, due to the delay by the police to file a report or give permission for the foundation to take the dead bodies away, the bodies lie in the mortuary for up to a week. They become heavily decomposed and it is harder for them to be identified.
As of June 14, seven bodies lie there rotting and unclaimed. “Sometimes when the freezers aren’t available to store the bodies, we store two in each freezer. The six freezers that are outside the mortuary too are used, but then so is the pit room. The mortuary is in a pathetic condition. If all of them are working properly, including the pit room, there is no need for more. But nothing seems to be done here,” says Dr Vikram Aditya, a duty doctor at the mortuary.
The blame game never ends at the Gandhi Hospital. “The problem with the mortuary is that the ACs don’t work and often break down. Because of the foul smell, the company whose freezers the morgue uses doesn’t send engineers to repair them.
The hospital administrative staff blames the company as it doesn’t send executives to repair or maintain them. They in turn blame the hospital for not clearing the bills. That is why they refused to renew their contract,” said Dr K Rajender Kumar, head of department, forensic medicine.
Dr S Mahaboob, superintendent of Gandhi Hospital, remained unavailable for comment. One of the workers at the mortuary said that the reason why the unidentified bodies remain here is because the police don’t complete the formalities, and without that, the hospital cannot hand over the bodies to the foundation.
“Many a times, the police conduct a post mortem and forget about it. This delays the process. Having said this, the ACs will be repaired within two to three days,” he added.Perhaps Gandhi Hospital can learn a lesson from the sign on the door to the mortuary— ‘The dead teach the living’.