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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Covid-19 deaths in Tamil Nadu several times higher than govt figures: NGO

As against the government’s figure of 863 deaths in April and May this year, the mortality rate is 13.5 times more than the declared deaths in the state, NGO Arappor Iyakkam has claimed in a report

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
Updated: June 15, 2021 9:32:25 pm
Covid-19 patients undergo treatment at Government Kilpauk Medical College (GKMC) Hospital ,in Chennai. (PTI)

A Chennai-based non-governmental organisation has claimed discrepancy in data of Covid-19 fatalities in Tamil Nadu. As against the government’s figure of 863 deaths in April and May this year, the mortality rate is 13.5 times more than the declared deaths in the state, NGO Arappor Iyakkam has claimed in a report.

The NGO has based its report on data from six hospitals: Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College Hospital, Trichy, Vellore Medical College Hospital, Karur Medical College and Hospital, and Tiruppur Government Headquarters Hospital. The hospitals are situated in different parts of Tamil Nadu.

The NGO analysed the death certificates released by six hospitals posted online for April and May in 2019, 2020 and 2021. They then collected the data for a number of death certificates issued for both male and female for each day between January and May in 2019, 2020 and 2021. This was compared with the data provided by the government in the media bulletin.

According to the report, the number of deaths in six hospitals was 2,000 per month for January to March 2021. The figure was the same for April and May . However, in April 2021, the number of deaths increased to 3,009 and in May 2021, there was a huge surge of 8,690 deaths.

The report claims that the drop in death rate in April 2020 may be attributed to the state-imposed coronavirus lockdown when it witnessed the first wave of the pandemic and also due to prevention of deaths due to road accidents and suspension of many surgeries. In April 2021, with the start of the second wave, there was a rise in mortality.

Further analysing the death data available of the six hospitals, the report claimed that it found a total of 11,699 deaths occurred April and May in 2021 — 3,152 deaths in Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, 3,464 in Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital, 1,806 in Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College Hospital, Trichy, 1,416 in Vellore Medical College Hospital, 960 in Karur Medical College and Hospital and 901 in Tiruppur Government Headquarters Hospital) reported in April and May 2021 as against 4,437 in 2019 and 3,261 in 2020.

The report said the Tamil Nadu Department of Health and Family Welfare, however, declared 863 deaths (as of June 13) for April and May 2021.

“Overall, mortality in these six hospitals is 13.6 times the reported Covid-19 deaths by the government in these hospitals for April and May, 2021. Deaths that are due to Covid-19 and its complications are likely to be 8.4 times to 9.8 times more than the number of deaths declared by the Department of Health and Welfare for these six hospitals or in other words, deaths due to Covid are likely to be underreported at least 8.4 times to 9.4 times,” the report concluded.

It said that the likely number of deaths due to Covid-19 in Tamil Nadu may be between 10,8,721 and 12,6,841 against the reported number of 12,943.

The NGO has recommended the state government a set of things which includes asking the government to transparently put out death certificates, mortality data and its consolidation for the hospital as well as home deaths for three years. Further, it has urged the government to set up an independent committee that will audit all the deaths that happened during the Covid-19 times and help reissue the medical certifications for cause of death for all patients who died under the ICMR U07.1 and U07.2 mortality codes of Covid-19.

As per the code UO7.1, a hospital must call it a Covid death if the person has a positive RT PCR test — with or without symptoms.

As per U07.2, hospitals must report a death as clinically-epidemiologically diagnosed Covid-19 if the patient tested negative but had symptoms. They must mark it as a suspected Covid-19 case if tests were awaited and the patient had symptoms. They must mark it as probable Covids-19 if patients had symptoms but tests were inconclusive.

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