Hospital turns to containers for body storage

Hospital turns to containers for body storage

Morgue overflow and autopsy backlog something not seen since 2004 tsunami, says TU Hospital

One of the two containers acquired by Thammasat University Hospital for body storage. (Bangkok Post Photo)
One of the two containers acquired by Thammasat University Hospital for body storage. (Bangkok Post Photo)

Thammasat University Hospital, overwhelmed by Covid-19 deaths, has begun storing bodies in refrigerated containers, a measure it last took during the devastating 2004 tsunami.

The hospital in Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok, has a 10-freezer morgue and usually handles up to seven autopsies a day. But the latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic means it now has to deal with more than 10 bodies daily.

“There’s not enough space, so we bought two containers for body storage,” Pharuhat Tor-udom, a director of the hospital, told Reuters, adding the containers cost about 250,000 baht each.

Almost 20% of bodies with an unidentified cause of death later tested positive for Covid-19, overwhelming the morgue and medical staff, he said.

“During the tsunami, we used containers to store bodies waiting to be autopsied for identification. But we haven’t had to do that (again) until now,” Assistant Prof Dr Pharuhat said.

There were several bodies kept in one container on Saturday, waiting to be retrieved by their relatives, he said.

“What makes us feel extremely sad is that we were not able to help people who died because of lacking access to medical treatment,” he added.

Hospitals in Bangkok and surrounding provinces are running out of capacity because of the surge in infections.

Thammasat University Hospital recently issued a directive saying that doctors must consider withholding intubation for patients who are over 75; have serious diseases such as late-stage cancer or certain other conditions.

As of Friday, 200,510 people were receiving treatment for Covid-19 at hospitals — 4,691 seriously ill and 1,032 dependent on ventilators.

The country on Saturday reported 18,912 new cases and 178 new deaths, both records, bringing the cumulative total to 597,287 with 4,857 fatalities.

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