February 17, 2021 4:15:55 am
LAST WEEK, Bihar set up 10 teams to conduct a state-wide probe based on the findings of an investigation by The Indian Express on how Covid testing data was allegedly fudged and inflated to meet targets in three districts. But the state government insisted that there were “irregularities” mainly in just one — Jamui.
New records accessed and tracked by The Indian Express show otherwise.
Data compiled by four Primary Health Centres and two government hospitals in Bhagalpur show 1,438 entries for RT-PCR tests with 10 zeroes listed as their numbers and incomplete addresses, making it virtually impossible to trace them. The data, from December 13, 2020 to January 5, 2021, do not show results of the tests conducted.
There is more.
One of those hospitals, a referral facility at Pirpaiti, had 10 zeroes listed as mobile numbers for 534 entries across a fortnight from December 13 to 31, 2020. In fact, there is not a single valid mobile number for any entry for this period at this hospital.
At the PHC in Bihpur, one mobile number has been provided for 138 consecutive entries for RT-PCR tests conducted between December 29, 2020, and January 5, 2021 — this number did not accept incoming calls.
With Bhagalpur emerging as one of the districts hard-hit by Covid with nearly 10,000 cases, the civil surgeon in charge of the district said that an inquiry is “already” being conducted on the “anomalies”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Dina Nath, the civil surgeon, said: “We have already been conducting an inquiry and have detected such anomalies. Our officials have been in the field investigating the matter. We will soon submit a report to the state Health department.”
Over the last month, The Indian Express visited six PHCs in Jamui, Sheikhpura and Patna, and accessed their testing records for January 16, 18 and 25. It tracked down 885 entries at these PHCs, and spoke to several staffers to find that basic data protocol was bypassed in the rush to meet daily targets.
On Friday, the findings were raised in Rajya Sabha by the RJD, prompting House Chairman and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu to point out that the matter is “important” and “is a subject for inquiry”. On the same day, the Centre asked Bihar to send a detailed report while the state set up probe teams and suspended nine Health personnel from Jamui.
Records from Bhagalpur indicate the scale of the problem.
Consider the key findings from data compiled by staff at PHCs in Bihpur, Jagdishpur, Narayan and Goradih, the Sadar Hospital in Kahalgaon, and the Referral Hospital in Pirpaiti.
* Referral Hospital, Pirpaiti: The list of zeroes for mobile numbers includes 70 entries on December 13, 76 on December 14, and 79 on December 15.
* PHC, Jagdishpur: 10 zeroes as mobile numbers for 348 entries — 35 consecutive entries on December 19, 33 for December 15, and 29 on December 17.
* Sadar Hospital, Kahalgaon: 10 zeroes for 239 entries — 91 on December 14, and 64 on December 15.
* PHC, Bihpur: 10 zeroes for all 161 entries for RT-PCR tests between December 16 and 30, with a maximum of 43 entries on December 17.
* PHC, Narayanpur: 10 zeroes for 131 consecutive entries for tests between December 16 and 28, including 50 entries on December 17.
* PHC, Goradih: 10 zeroes for all 25 entries on December 30.
Bihar has so far tested 2.20 crore samples with over 2.61 lakh positive cases and 1,527 Covid-related deaths. At present, the state has 588 active cases.
Staff members at two of the PHCs in Bhagalpur, speaking on condition of anonymity, echoed Health personnel on the ground in Jamui and Sheikhpura: there was “too much pressure” to meet targets from block health managers and medical officers in-charge, especially after a dip in cases since October.
State officials told The Indian Express that with “irregularities” coming to the fore, and Covid levels dipping, district-level officials have been told not to set any more testing targets. “Now that data fudging has been reported, we have been asked to get ID for those getting tested. Unlike before, there is no pressure to meet a daily target now,” said a PHC official in Bhagalpur, speaking on condition of anonymity.
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