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Bogotá, Aug 1 . .- The growth of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia begins to take its toll on hospitals and funeral services, overwhelmed in several cities amid allegations of lack of information on the sick and deceased and even lost corpses.

This is the case of Diego Castañeda, who took his 88-year-old father to the Central Military Hospital of Bogotá for fever and a urinary condition but 48 hours later he found out that he had died and, although ten days have passed since then, he still does not know the real cause or where his remains are.

« I took my father to the hospital, he had some fever, but it was because of a urinary infection that he was being treated with antibiotics, when he was hospitalized he entered through the same area that COVID-19 patients enter, » Castañeda tells Efe. .

Bogotá surpassed on Friday the bar of the 100,000 infected and accumulated 2,748 deaths, a third of the 295,508 positive cases and 10,105 deaths across the country, a situation that puts the city in trouble despite the fact that since March the national and local authorities have They prepare to face the peak of the pandemic.


In the midst of grief over the loss of his father, Castañeda complains about the little and contradictory information received since he was never seen by phone and, although the authorities recommend not going to hospitals to find out about the health of the people admitted, not he had no choice but to go to the Military Hospital.

After asking here and there, a nurse finally took an interest in her case and after a while received a call from an official with unexpected news: « The man passed away, » the voice said flatly, without giving him any explanation, and « without have no regard for my father’s death. It’s not fair. « 

With a lump in his throat, Castañeda says he is mired in « pain and uncertainty. »

« The only thing they told me is that I should prepare the burial, but I still don’t know what my father died of, if it was a coronavirus, which I don’t think, because he entered the hospital due to a urinary infection, or cardiac arrest, as the opinion says « 

According to her account, the theory of the coronavirus was given to her by the emergency department doctor who accompanied her father on entering the hospital, who in turn ruled on another cause of death, but the truth is that the Castañeda family is still in limbo. .

Castañeda regrets that, in addition to not knowing what his father died from, « I still have not received his ashes », ten days after the death, and the funeral’s argument is that there is congestion to cremate the bodies.


Since the pandemic began, there was talk of the urgent need to strengthen the health system and to do more tests to detect those infected, among other things, but little of the country’s funeral capacity.

Bogotá has nine cemeteries, four of them administered by the Mayor’s Office and five private, and it has thirteen cremation furnaces, six of public management and seven in charge of private companies that are unable to cope with the emergency caused by the death of 106 people in average in the last week, only for COVID-19, not counting the other causes.

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To prevent the situation from worsening, the Mayor’s Office also arranged refrigerated containers to deposit corpses that will later be cremated, some of which are already in operation in cemeteries.

To proceed to the final destination, either burial or cremation of the loved one, you must have documentation issued by health entities or by the competent authority or, failing that, a certificate confirming the cause of death.

« This, among other things, will allow us to activate the protocols as the case may be to protect employees and the families themselves, against the possible spread of the virus, » explains María Ángela Mejía, corporate director of Grupo Recrender, a company with more than 50 years of experience in funeral services in Bogotá and other cities in the country.


The case of the Castañeda family is one of many reported on a daily basis throughout the country about the lack of information to the relatives by hospitals and funeral homes, and even the change or loss of corpses.

In Barranquilla, which until a few weeks ago was the center of the pandemic with Bogotá, the authorities started a process against a clinic and a funeral parlor that wrongly turned over the bodies of people killed by COVID-19.

The Mayor’s process is against the El Prado clinic and the Jardines de la Eternidad funeral home, for alleged breaches of the protocol for handling and disposing of bodies.

The events occurred on July 6, the day that relatives of Marilin Pérez, who died of a coronavirus, reported that the clinic had not given them the body.

Subsequent investigations determined that Pérez’s body was handed over to Jorge Muñoz’s relatives, who made the interment with a wrong body.

A similar case occurred in the town of Baranoa, 30 kilometers from Barranquilla, where the body of Nelson Guardiola was handed over to another family in the town of Palmar de Varela, who managed to realize the error before the burial.

Relatives of deceased people regret that the health restrictions surrounding deaths from coronavirus prevent them from verifying that the remains they are given are really that of their loved one, not only to corroborate their identity but to properly mourn since seeing the body is the starting point of that process.

For this reason, a woman who was waiting this Friday at the Serafin Cemetery, in Bogotá, for the arrival of a funeral car with the remains of her grandmother, told Efe that she was willing to stop him « so they would let me see her » since, according to , « she did not die of COVID-19 » and for that reason she saw no reason to be prevented from saying goodbye to her.

Ovidio Castro Medina

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