Amid an outcry and government-ordered probe over a tribal man forced to walk 10 km with his wife's body in Odisha's Kalahandi, district health authorities on Thursday claimed that there was no negligence and an ambulance was arranged to take the corpse to their village when the incident came to light.
Even as a probe was ordered into the incident that took place yesterday, Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) of Kalahandi Dr B K Brahma claimed Dana Majhi, husband of the deceased, did not contact anybody for a vehicle to take the body from the hospital to his village.
The state government today ordered a probe to ascertain the circumstances which led to the incident.
"The District Collector of Kalahandi has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Sub-Collector of Bhawanipatna has been directed to conduct the probe and submit a report at the earliest," state urban development minister Pushpendra Singhdeo, who hails from Kalahandi district, said in Bhubaneswar.
The shocking apathy of the hospital authorities came to light after a tribal man was seen walking down the road, carrying his wife's dead body wrapped in a blanket early on Wednesday. At his side walked his sobbing 12-year-old daughter.
Amana Dei, wife of Dana Majhi of Melghara village under Thuamul Rampur block, was suffering from TB and was admitted in the TB ward of Bhawanipatna Government Hospital on August 23.
She was given free injection and medicines by the doctor in-charge of the ward. In the night at about 10 PM, the doctor concerned attended her, the CDMO said in a press release.
However, the patient and her husband were not found around 1 AM. On inquiry it was known that without intimating anybody he took away his wife, the CDMO claimed.
"The patient was neither discharged nor declared dead by the ward in-charge doctor," the CDMO said, adding Majhi did not ask or contact anybody for a vehicle to carry his wife's body.
Stressing that there was no negligence on the part of the hospital, Dr Brahma said when officials learnt about Majhi carrying his dead wife home, an ambulance was immediately arranged and the body was sent to his village.
By then, Majhi, accompanied by his 12-year-old daughter,had already walked around 10 km carrying his wife's body on his shoulder.
After walking nearly 10 km, he met the crew of a local television channel. "I told the hospital authorities that I am a poor man and cannot afford a vehicle. They said they could not offer any help," Majhi told them.
The hospital's alleged refusal came despite an existing scheme from the state government for people like Manjhi.
In a state where medical help isn't easy to come by, the Naveen Patnaik government had launched the 'Mahaparayana' scheme in February, offering to transport the bodies of deceased from government hospitals to their homes free of charge.
The television crew called up the District Collector and arranged for an ambulance for the remaining 50 km of the journey.