A video shot on a phone shows coronavirus patients in a Mumbai hospital ward lying next to corpses wrapped in body bags. The horrifying clip, which is circulating on social media, is from Sion Hospital, which is run by the city's municipal corporation and is one of the major hospitals handling COVID-19 patients in Mumbai.
At least seven bodies are seen in the ward as patients are treated in adjoining beds; some patients have family members attending to them and they appear to be used to the sight of the bodies.
An MLA of Maharashtra's opposition BJP, Nitesh Rane, posted the video on Wednesday with the comment: "In Sion hospital, patients are sleeping next to dead bodies!!! This is the extreme…what kind of administration is this! Very very shameful!!"
A leader of the Congress, which is part of Maharashtra's ruling coalition, also expressed outrage. "Outraged to see corpses laid beside the sick at Sion Hospital. Why isn't BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) following WHO prescribed protocols when disposing of COVID-19 corpses? Public hospital staff are doing their best with limited resources at hand. Mumbai's administration needs to step up NOW!" - tweeted Milind Deora, former Union Minister.
Sion Hospital dean Pramod Ingale said relatives of those who died of COVID-19 were reluctant to take the bodies. "That is the reason why the bodies were kept there unattended. We have now removed the bodies and are probing the matter," he told Press Trust of India.
On why the bodies were not shifted to a mortuary, Dr Ingale said, "There are 15 slots in the hospitals mortuary, of which 11 are already filled. If we shift all the bodies to the mortuary, it will be a problem for bodies of those who died of causes other than COVID-19."
The video, said hospital authorities, may have been filmed when they were waiting for the consent of families to move the bodies. They added that once a body is packed in a body bag, "there is no scope of the infection spreading". The clarification, however, did little to diminish the sheer horror of patients sleeping next to body bags.
Maharashtra has the highest number of coronavirus cases in India, close to 16,800. The number of cases in Mumbai is 10,714; over 400 have died.