By JAMILA HUSAIN
The Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, last evening released the Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) in the transportation and burial of COVID-19 dead, after the government issued a fresh gazette last week permitting burials of virus infected victims.
According to the SOP which has been sent to all provincial and city hospitals, it has stated that the place of burial should be marked as Iranathivu Island, located in the north, and the director of the hospital or head of health care institution where a death has occurred from the virus should make arrangements to include the burial location in the death declaration form by coordinating with the nominee of the DG Health. Following are the full guidelines.
Preparation and approvals for transportation
The relatives of the deceased should inform the Director/ Head of the health care institution (where the death has occurred) of their desire to bury the corpse without delay.
The Director of the hospital/ Head of health care institution should obtain a written request from relatives for burial.
Director/ Head of health care institution should make arrangements to include the place of burial as Iranathivu island in the death declaration form by coordinating with the nominee of the Director General of Health Services (DGHS). This document can be used to transport the corpse from the hospital and for a legitimate burial. If an inquest is held, the burial site has to be included by the Inquirer into sudden death (ISD)/Magistrate in the document issued by them.
The Director/ Head of the institution should inform the date and time of dispatch of the corpse to the relatives and advise them to provide the coffin as soon as possible.
It is the duty of the director/ Head of health care institution to transport the corpse in a coffin provided by the relatives to a designated location in Colombo Institute of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology (office of JMO Colombo) / BH Welikanda where the corpse will be received by the designated officer. This needs to be coordinated with the nominee of the Ministry of Health.
The vehicle transporting the corpse to “Nachchikuda pier” will leave daily at 5.30 a.m. from the designated receiving centre nominated by the DGHS. Corpse carried by authorized personnel will be handed over to the respective authority at the “Nachchikuda pier” which is supervised by the area MOW representative PHI. Burial will take place by the facilitation and coordination of the Police/Security personnel at an Island earmarked by the Government of Sri Lanka in the presence of two relatives, MOH/ his representative PHI of the area of burial.
Procedure prior to transportation
The relatives need to provide a coffin in advance.
Before departure of the corpse, designated health staff of the hospital wearing PPE should bring the corpse from the pre designated area to the viewing area for relatives to view the corpse. Religious activities are permitted only at this point according to the guidelines provided by DGHS. Upon completion of the above activities, the corpse is to be taken by the designated health staff of the hospital (wearing appropriate PPE) and placed inside the coffin provided by the relatives. The corpse in the coffin is to be placed in the transportation carriage and handed over to the MOH/ representative PHI and police to be carried to the designated place of receiving corpses in Colombo. The driver and supporting personnel of the corpse carriage must wear appropriate PPE. The relatives or unauthorized persons are not permitted to obtain photographs, video and video calls inside the health care institution/s.
Transportation of the corpse
Two of the relatives who visit the hospital where the death has occurred and identified the deceased, are allowed to be present at the Nachchikuda pier in the Kilinochchi district on the following day for witnessing the burial at Iranathivu Island. This needs to be coordinated with the nominee of the Ministry of Health. However, they should not be patients infected with COVID-19. Quarantine persons are only permitted under strict guidance and approval of the MOH/ Regional Epidemiologist. They should adhere to standard infection control measures. At the final destination, the corpse inside the coffin is received by the area MOW representative PHI of the area of burial.
After receiving the corpse, it will be taken to the site of burial by the designated officers with necessary health precautions. Only two relatives are permitted to be present at the burial along with area MOH, representative PHI along with Police and security personnel handling the burial process.
The coffin should not be opened and relatives/ next of kin shall not be permitted to handle the coffin under any circumstance.
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