Updated: June 20, 2020 12:52:31 pm
On June 16, BMC admitted that it had not reported 862 Covid-19 deaths in Mumbai, and added the figure to the official toll. This took the city’s fatality rate from 3.7 to 5.2 per cent — almost double the national average.
The Indian Express has now accessed medical records of a few more deceased Covid-19 patients or those suspected to have been infected, which are yet to be reported by BMC officially as Covid-19 deaths, an indication that there could be many more like them. The names of such patients were not included in the official toll list till Friday evening, by when Mumbai had reported 3,311 deaths.
Senior BMC officials said the reconciliation process to know the status of each patient is underway. While hospitals have reported all pending deaths due to Covid-19 to BMC, the local ward offices are yet to report deaths that happened outside a hospital or at home. Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said, “It will take a few days to reconcile all cases. Less than 12,000 cases have to be updated.”
Some of these deaths had occurred as early as May. In some cases, the family of the deceased said that the death certificates issued by the hospital made no mention that it was a suspected Covid-19 death, though the funeral was conducted as per protocol meant for those succumbing to the virus. In a few cases, the cause of death was marked as “natural death”.
Vincent Crasto (69)
Death: May 13
Vincent Crasto died in an autorickshaw in Bandra West, as his wife sat holding his urinary bag by his side. He suffered from breathlessness on May 12 and the next day, Holy Family hospital advised him to undergo Covid-19 test but did not admit him. He also required urgent dialysis. On May 13, he waited for three hours for a swab test in the hospital compound, after test he was asked to return home. He died on his way.
“He kept gulping for air. When he died, the urinary bag was filled with blood,” his wife Monti Crasto said. He was declared dead at the Holy Family hospital the same evening. On May 15, his swab report tested positive.
BMC officials visited their chawl home within a day, disinfected the house and hung a “containment zone’ banner in the chawl. They also noted that the “index case” (Crasto) had died, the relatives said.
The family of five were kept in quarantine for over 20 days, as opposed to the standard 14 days. “Twice, we got calls from BMC – the number was 1075 – to ask about Vincent’s health. Both times, I said he had died,” Crasto’s neighbour said. His name is still missing from the official list. It is also not among the 862 deaths added by BMC.
Selvaraj Pillai (62)
Death: May 10
The Dharavi resident first underwent private treatment for fever. For two days, he remained on saline support. A physician recommended Covid-19 test when his health did not improve. On May 9, a private laboratory tested him. The same day, he developed breathing difficulties. His son, Nithyaganesh Selvaraj, rushed him to seven public and private hospitals – all refused to admit him since he was a “suspected” Covid-19 patient and claimed they did not have vacant beds.
Early May 10, Pillai was brought to Sion hospital and died within an hour. Though his test results were awaited, the on-duty doctor wrote the cause of death as “respiratory failure” and marked it as “natural death”. The body was sealed and cremated as per Covid-19 protocol. Pillai’s test report came positive on May 11.
Seven members of his family were quarantined and four of them tested positive, including Nithyaganesh. “Even for quarantine, we ourselves approached the BMC ward office… We also informed the local ward officers,” he said. The family got the final death certificate from BMC on Friday. The certificate mentions death caused by respiratory failure, and lists diabetes as the underlining cause, but makes no mention of Covid-19 anywhere.
When contacted, BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said: “The patient was in our line list and admitted to Sion hospital. He died there. The contention that the patient was not on BMC records is not at all true.” A “line list” is a detailed record maintained of the patient.
Mathai Varghese (57)
Death: May 25
Mathai Varghese complained of breathlessness on May 23. His wife, Ealiyamma Mathai, took him to Seven Hills hospital immediately. “The doctors said they were only admitting Covid-19 positive patients. We had no ambulance and thus returned home after getting him tested,” said Ealiyamma, a resident of Kandivali East. Her husband felt better on May 24, but by night, he became breathless again. On May 25 morning, Ealiyamma arranged for an ambulance. Before it could arrive, he passed away. Instead of being buried, the body was cremated. Just before cremation, the swab tested positive for Covid-19. Ealiyamma also went on to test positive later on.
Pravina Shah (68)
Death: June 11
The Malad resident was diagnosed with Covid-19 on June 1. She remained in intensive care for three days at Yashasvi hospital. On June 6, the hospital discharged her, saying she has recovered. “She could hardly walk, was weak, and could not eat properly. We thought the hospital was just following some discharge protocol and didn’t argue,” granddaughter Dhara Shah said. On June 9, Pravina’s oxygen saturation levels dropped down to 32. The next day, she was rushed to Trident hospital. As the hospital had no ventilator, she was kept on oxygen support. For one-and-a-half day, the family looked for vacant ventilators in several hospitals, called BMC helpline (1916), but found no help. Pravina died on June 11 due to respiratory failure.
Her husband and son also tested positive On June 8, and then again on June 15, the BMC wrote to all hospitals to report Covid-19 deaths within 48 hours. It is unclear whether Pravina’s name is in the recovered list, as she had been previously discharged by Yashasvi hospital. Until Friday, her name was not on the official death list.
Ansari Tufail Ahmed (44)
Death: May 4
When Ansari Tufail Ahmed died at Nair hospital on May 4 morning, he suffered from breathlessness, an X-ray had indicated pneumonia in his lungs, and was in dire need of a ventilator. The family had first gone to Global hospital, then KEM hospital, from where he was referred as a “suspected” Covid-19 paient to Nair hospital. The hospital took an oral swab for test, and within an hour, Ahmed died in the waiting area.
Forty-five days on, the family has still not received his Covid-19 report. “We went to the hospital multiple times. Eventually, I gave up. I have lost my brother. The report will only confirm what we know… he had all Covid-19 symptoms,” said brother Sohail Ahmed.
The south Mumbai resident was unwell for 15 days. On May 3, his cough and breathing difficulty aggravated. The next day, he died. His cause of death says “Type 1 respiratory failure”, but does not mention that he was a suspected Covid-19 patient.
Ahmed was buried and his body handled like that of a suspected patient of Covid-19. “No one came to disinfect or ask us any questions,” Sohail said. When contacted, Nair hospital dean Dr Mohan Joshi said the family will have to come to the hospital and the report will be looked into.
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