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How a wife’s last-minute doubt exposed goof-up by Patna hospital that called a living man dead

Senior official suspended. Patna DM Chandrashekhar Singh has ordered the hospital to conduct an investigation and identify those responsible for the goof-up.

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Patna: Had it not been for his wife, Chunnu Kumar, a resident of Barh sub-division in Patna district, would have been a dead man by now — on paper. A Patna hospital had declared him dead, issued a death certificate and even handed over “his body” to his family for cremation.

However, moments before the cremation was to be carried out, Kumar’s wife got suspicious and said the body did not appear to be his, and turned out she was right.

The Sunday incident has left Bihar’s health department red-faced, and heads have started to roll.

Principal Secretary, Health, Prataya Amrit visited the Patna Medical College & Hospital (PMCH) Monday, and health manager Anjani Kumar was suspended.

“We are investigating the whole matter and if anyone else is found guilty, we will take action,” PMCH superintendent Dr I.S. Thakur told ThePrint.

Meanwhile, the condition of Chunnu Kumar, who had suffered a brain hemorrhage, is stable, the hospital said.

The case 

Chunnu Kumar, aged around 40 years, was admitted to PMCH Friday, and his Covid test was positive, according to hospital records.

While there are restrictions for attendants and family members on entry to the Covid ward, his relatives said they knew he was “recovering” until Saturday.

“But on Sunday, at around 10 am, we were informed that he had died. The PMCH authorities handed us a body wrapped in black polythene. They did not allow us to see the face, and also said we can’t take the body back to our village,” Kumar’s younger brother Brij Bihari told ThePrint.

He said the hospital issued a death certificate and told them to cremate Kumar in Patna only.

The body was about to be cremated when Kumar’s wife Kavita Devi expressed doubt that its height did not appear to match that of her husband. “She demanded to see his face at once. The face was then shown to us, and it was clear that the body was not my brother’s,” Brij Bihari said.

The family then rushed back to PMCH and created a ruckus inside the premises, displaying Chunnu Kumar’s ‘death certificate’.

PMCH officials agreed to let Brij Bihari inside the Covid ward, after giving him a PPE suit to wear. “I found my brother in a better shape than when I last saw him,” he said.

Speaking to ThePrint, Kavita Devi said she was shocked when PMCH told them about her husband’s “death”. “When we last saw him, he looked stable. I cried for one full day, and was later relieved to find that the body was not that of my husband.”

The body given to the family was of a Covid patient, and is unclaimed so far.

‘Gross negligence’

After the authorities were informed of the ruckus at PMCH, Patna District Magistrate Chandrashekhar Singh Monday ordered the hospital to conduct an investigation and identify the erring staff members. He also asked them to ensure such mistakes are not repeated in future.

However, with the embarrassing goof-up happening days after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar claimed at a press meet that elaborate arrangements had been made to tackle the fresh Covid wave in Bihar, it gave the opposition fodder to attack the government.

“The casual manner and the gross negligence Covid patients face in Bihar are reflected from this goof-up at PMCH. The beds of Covid wards are full. Many health staff members  have been tested. The government needs much more than making claims,” RJD MLA Bhai Virendra Yadav told ThePrint.

Addressing the media on 9 April, the CM had announced closure of all educational institutes, restricting seating in theatres to 50 per cent of capacity and testing passengers coming from Maharashtra. He had also proposed to open some quarantine centres.

“We have not thought of night curfew or lockdown but we will be monitoring the situation,” he had said.

Covid surge in Bihar

A month ago, Bihar had claimed that it had only around 250 Covid patients. The number is 17,050 as of Monday. For the last three days, the state has seen daily cases of over 3,000.

The numbers can climb higher, with Bihari migrants having started to return from Maharashtra and other states.

The health department claims to be conducting around 80,000 tests per day.

Between Sunday and Tuesday, over a hundred passengers coming from Maharashtra have tested positive for Covid.

The death toll this time is higher. The state government has put the official number of Covid toll since 2020 at 1,610. At least 30 people have died of Covid between Friday and Sunday, according to health department’s figures.

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mazumdar)

Also read: Patna hospital declares alive Covid patient dead, hands over another man’s body to family


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