Gujarat’s Ahmedabad Civil Hospital has come under the scanner after a Covid-19 patient admitted there was found dead at a bus stop 10 km away on May 15. The patient’s family was forced to carry the body to a crematorium themselves, without any protective gear, and claims they have not been given any information on how the body reached the bus stop.

The patient, Gunvant Makwana, had been admitted in Ahmedabad Civil Hospital’s Covid isolation ward on May 10 because he had respiratory problems and displayed other symptoms of Covid-19. He was taken for a coronavirus test. His son, Kirti Makwana, received a positive test report on email three days later.

“For three days I had no idea about my father’s condition, because no one is allowed to visit the isolation ward and the hospital had told me to go home,” said Kirti Makwana, a labourer at a textile mill, who lives in Ahmedabad’s Danilimda neighbourhood.

At 10 am on May 15, Kirti Makwana received a call from the Danilimda police station, asking him to pick up his father’s body from the postmortem room of SVP Hospital, a public hospital located 6 km away from Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.

“The police had found my father’s body lying at Danilimda BRTS stop at 3 am the previous night, and they took it to SVP hospital,” said Makwana. “When my family reached there, the postmortem was already done, but we have not yet received the report. They say he died of Covid, but we have no idea when or where.”

At SVP Hospital, Makwana claims the family was given no body bag or ambulance to take the body to a crematorium. “We spent Rs 1,500 to buy a plastic to cover the body, and the ward boy took another Rs 200 to spray disinfectant on it,” said Makwana. “We had to carry the body on our own to the cremation ground. When we asked for masks and gloves, the hospital said we had to buy it on our own, which we could not.”

Makwana claims his family has repeatedly tried to seek answers about his father’s death from Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. “But no one is willing to meet us there and we are not getting any response.”

Dr MM Prabhakar, the chief of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, told that Gunvant Makwana did not die while he was admitted at the hospital, and had been discharged on May 14 when he was still alive. “We discharged the patient with advice for home quarantine after informing the municipal corporation’s health department, as per protocol,” said Prabhakar. “The corporation has to check whether the patient has the facility for home quarantine, and after that process was cleared, we sought the consent of the patient and discharged him. We don’t know how the body was found at the bus stop the next day – that is being looked into.”

When asked if the hospital had informed the patient’s family about discharging him, or whether patients are allowed to walk out of hospitals without a family member accompanying them, Prabhakar said, “All that is looked after by the municipal corporation.”

Jignesh Mevani, an independent legislator from Gujarat, condemned the Civil Hospital for this incident. “This is a case of typical negligence when it comes to dealing with the poor,” he said.