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Patna: The Bihar government has dismissed a top health official for declaring dead a COVID-19 patient still alive, and handing over another person’s body to his kin without allowing them to have a last glimpse of the body.

Chunnu Kumar, 40, a resident of Barh sub-division in Patna district, was admitted to the state-run Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) on Friday after he suffered brain haemorrhage. He was soon moved to the COVID-19 ward of the hospital after he tested positive for coronavirus.

The victim’s family members said till Sunday morning they were told by the doctors that the patient was fine and slowly recovering. But soon they were told he was dead and handed over his sealed body with the death certificate.

The family was not allowed to have a last glimpse of the body that was rushed to the local crematorium in an ambulance arranged by the hospital.

Witnesses said just when the body was about to be cremated, the victim’s wife demanded that she be given a last glimpse of her husband, but it was turned down. Eventually, she bribed a crematorium staff Rs500 to unwrap the body. It was then that she realised that the body handed over to her was that of someone else.

“I found my world crashing down at once when the hospital told me that he is dead, but I didn’t understand how that happened (he died) since we were told he was fine till Sunday. We were not allowed to carry his body home and it was rushed straight to the crematorium,” the patient’s wife Kavita Devi said.

She said she was sure he was alive. “Also, the packed body handed over to us didn’t match the physique of my husband. Eventually, my guess proved true,” said Kavita.

Reports said soon after the incident at the crematorium, the family rushed to the hospital. They demanded action against the officials concerned. On inquiry it was found that the man declared officially dead was fine and recuperating fast.

The hospital administration ordered an investigation into the matter and dismissed the hospital’s health manager Anjali Kumari. “It was a serious matter showing gross negligence on the part of the health manager. She has been terminated with immediate effect,” the hospital superintendent Dr IS Thakur told the media on Monday.