Fatalities stay high as deaths of past months are recorded now
Health Dept. blames private hospitals, while latter say govt. undercounted earlier
While there has been a significant decline in new COVID-19 cases in Karnataka, the number of deaths remaining high has been intriguing. Data, however, shows that many deaths that occurred in March, April and May are being accounted for now, leading to the high number.
A closer look at the data in the Health Department’s daily media bulletins for the past one week, shows that close to 80% of the deaths recorded in the bulletin now occurred since March.
For example, the list of deaths mentioned in the June 3 bulletin shows hardly 150 deaths that have happened since June 1, out of 514. The death of a 74-year-old female patient, who was admitted on March 23 and died on March 29 in a private hospital in Bengaluru, has been recorded now. Likewise, a 62-year-old female who died on April 8, a 81-year-old who died on April 6 and many others who died in the months of March, April and May figure in Thursday’s data. Friday’s bulletin too showed a similar trend.
Admitting that most deaths being accounted now are from the backlog, Health Commissioner K.V. Trilok Chandra told The Hindu that it is because of delayed reporting of deaths by several private hospitals, especially in Bengaluru.
“We have ordered an enquiry into this and are looking at it case by case. Private hospitals told us that they were unable to report the deaths as and when they occurred due to the huge rush of patients since late March,” he said. He said strict instructions had been given to private hospitals to report all COVID-19 deaths when they happen.
However, the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) disputed the Commissioner’s claim of delayed reporting by private hospitals and termed it was under-reporting of deaths by the government.
“The number of COVID-19 fatalities was considerably high during the 3rd and 4th week of April and the first two weeks of May. Maybe the government underreported the numbers then to avoid panic among people,” said PHANA president H.M. Prasanna.
Asserting that private hospitals in Bengaluru have to mandatorily enter every COVID-19 death on the BBMP portal, he said: “COVID bodies are not handed over to the families directly. It happens through the BBMP and unless we record the death on the portal, BBMP personnel will not collect the bodies. Most hospitals do not have mortuaries and would not want to keep a COVID body for long.”
BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta, however, said there is no requirement of handing over the body to BBMP staff. “We do not have that many personnel to collect every COVID body. Our officers are involved only in case of deaths that happen at the residences of patients,” he said.
“The delayed recording of deaths in the media bulletins is because the deaths have to be certified by a committee of experts. There is always a lag between reporting, certification and recording of deaths,” he said. He added that people should not panic seeing the high number of deaths now.
‘Temporary crematoria being shut’
BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta said the three temporary crematoria opened last month are being shut as the number of deaths have reduced along with new cases. “The rush at the regular crematorium has also reduced considerably now,” he added.