Facing flak for revising the total number of coronavirus-related deaths from seven to three in the state, the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal on Sunday constituted a five-member expert committee, which, it said, will determine whether deaths are related to coronavirus or not.
The West Bengal government also did not update new coronavirus cases in the state even as the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare updated the total number of confirmed cases in West Bengal to 80 on its website on Sunday.
For the past few days, the state Health Department has not been releasing its bulletin on a daily basis. After a two-day gap, the government had released a bulletin on Saturday in which it said that there are 49 active cases, 12 recovery and three deaths — a total of 64 confirmes COVID-19 cases in the state.
“The five-member committee will examine the BHT (bed-head ticket), treatment history, laboratory investigation report, death certificate or any other documents as may be deemed necessary for ascertaining the cause of death of a patient who had tested positive of COVID-19,” the Sunday’s order stated, adding, “All health facilities, where a COVID-19 positive patient has died, will submit BHT, treatment history, laboratory investigation report, death certificate and many other documents related to such cases.”
“The expert committee will meet periodically as and when required,” it further said.
The five-member expert committee consists of Dr BR Satpati, Advisor (Health & Family Welfare Department) and former Director of Health Service Doctors; Dr Plaban Mukherjee, professor and Head of Department of CTVS Medical College in Kolkata; Dr Ashutosh Ghosh, professor and Head of Department (Critical Care Medicine), IPGMER and SSKM Hospital; Dr Jyotirmoy Pal, Department of Medicine of RG Kar Medical College and Hospital and Dr Debashish Bhattacharya, Director of Medical Education Member Convenor.
The row over the coronavirus death cases began after the state reported three deaths in one day last week, taking the total toll to seven. Since then the government has announced that the four deaths, included in the seven, were not by coronavirus and were instead related to “co-morbidity” — the presence of more than one disorder in the same person.
“This committee has been formed because there will be no ambiguity that the patient died due to coronavirus infection or not. That’s why the government constituted this committee,” a senior official of the state Health Department said.
Demanding transparency, the Opposition had hit out at the government for revising the death toll downwards and accused it of hiding the truth. On Saturday, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha dismissed the criticism, claiming that the state government was not withholding actual numbers said that its focus was on identifying coronavirus clusters and hotspots. “If we are not putting something in the public domain, it means that the public does not need to know… Everyone need not know everything,” the Chief Secretary had said.
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