Hyderabad: The bodies of at least six persons who died of COVID-19 at Gandhi Hospital lay unattended while Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (GHMC) haggled with workers engaged to cremate or bury them. The workers had not been paid their salaries for their services previously, and insisted that the civic cough up now. All day long on Thursday, the grieving families waited in the lobbies of the hospital for the bodies to be moved.
At end of the day, senior officials of GHMC intervened and the post-mortem journey of the six persons commenced.
The drama started early Thursday morning after the families of the dead CVID-19 patients began making enquiries as to when the bodies would be released from the morgue.
Srinivas Reddy, whose brother, aged 46, died of COVID-19 at 2.30 a.m. Thursday, said he went to the mortuary at 8 a.m to secure the release of the body. ''I waited the entire day for the GHMC authorities to transport the body from the mortuary. Later, I was told that the GHMC workers who deal with dead bodies had gone on a strike as they had not been paid their salaries,'' Srinivas Reddy told Deccan Chronicle.
Srinivas Reddy was getting repeated calls from his dead brother's wife Anusha, who was waiting for the body to be shifted. ''No one in the hospital or at the mortuary gave me a proper response. Some of them rudely told me to leave. I had been in the hospital for three days ever since my brother was admitted and my house is now a containment zone. This was the worst thing I expected after my brother's death,'' he said.
Sources said four dead bodies awaited transportation for last rites on Thursday in addition to two more that had been lying there since Wednesday. The other families too waited all day.
GHMC has hired about 15 workers including drivers to transport COVID-19 dead bodies for the last rites. They work in shifts, and have about five vehicles at their disposal throughout the day. They are paid salaries ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000 and more, depending on the number of deaths per day. They have been given one of the rooms in the hospital and are expected to be available round-the-clock.
When contacted, GHMC assistant medical health officer (AMOH) Dr Ravinder Goud, who is the in-charge of dead body disposal, told this newspaper that there were ''some issues'' pertaining to salaries and advance money sought by some of the workers. ''It was sorted out by evening,'' he said without going into details.
Another senior official said that though the money for their salaries was already sanctioned, the cheques could not be released due to some ''technical issues.'' The salaries were paid this evening and they have been assured there would be no delay henceforth. They have joined work,'' he added.
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