The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), which has, so far, managed to keep its official figures of Covid-19 cases just above 10,000 since the outbreak of the pandemic with 171 deaths recorded officially until Friday, is facing data manipulation allegations.
Elected representatives of both the Congress and BJP cited the increasing number of cremations and burials across the city as an indicator of the “concealed” data. Congress corporator Chirag Zaveri and BJP MLA Jitendra Sukhadia on Friday aired their concern, seeking immediate correction in the figures related to the pandemic, even as Mayor Dr Jigeesha Seth said that the numbers of reported cases could be “restricted” to avoid “spread of panic” among people.
On Friday, when Vadodara’s Covid-19 tally reached 10,292, Zaveri dashed a letter to the VMC, alleging that the health department is concealing the data related to positive cases and deaths in Vadodara.
Zaveri, a corporator from Manjalpur in South zone, told The Indian Express, “In my ward, there are two Urban Primary Health Centres (UPHC), which I visit almost everyday. Out of around 800 Rapid Antigen Tests that they conduct daily, the total positive cases are around 250 per day. So, how can the overall figures of Vadodara city be restricted to 125 cases per day? It is clear that the data is being manipulated…”
After Zaveri’s letter, BJP MLA from Sayajigunj Assembly Constituency Jitendra Sukhadia backed the charge against the civic body. Speaking to local channels in Vadodara, Sukhadia said, “It is clear that there is gross mismanagement of reported numbers. It is also the case with deaths… They are showing one or two deaths everyday… then why are the crematoriums witnessing heavy queues?”
While health officials maintain that the data is collected from all government hospitals and testing labs before being put together as part of the daily official medical bulletin, Vadodara mayor Dr Jigeesha Seth, in a statement to TV channels, admitted that the numbers were possibly underreported to keep panic at bay.
Seth said, “It should be the standard practice to collect the positive cases data from the government-run Covid-19 hospitals and UPHCs as well as private labs and hospitals. We will have to check if the reported data is only from specific hospitals or overall. It is also possible that the numbers are being reported with some restrictions to avoid panic among the people.”
Zaveri, however, said, “The agenda is to show how well managed the city is during the pandemic. The truth is… there are no beds available in hospitals and people are being forced to go into home quarantine to show that things are in control.”
Denying the allegations, Vadodara Officer on Special Duty Vinod Rao said, “Our reporting of Covid-19 numbers is in line with the protocols of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). The deaths are also being reported as per the guidelines, according to which those with multiple co-morbidities are not counted as Covid-19 deaths. The crematoriums and burial grounds in Vadodara are also seeing final rites of patients from other districts who came here for treatment… It makes up almost one-third of the patients admitted to Covid-19 hospitals here.”
On Friday, Rao visited the Dhiraj Medical College Hospital in Sumandeep campus in Pipaliya to explore the option of turning the hospital into a 600-bed dedicated Covid-19 facility with 100 ICU and 60 ventilator beds.
Vadodara, which has also been facing manpower issues at SSG and Gotri Medical College, is exploring the option of deploying resident doctors and nursing students from Dhiraj Hospital.
Rao has also instructed all private hospitals empaneled as Covid-19 hospitals to “not deny service to any patient”. “The focus is to pool resources available. The hospitals should attend to the patients and after assessing the need, they should be referred to a hospital which may have spare vacant beds or ventilators,” Rao said.
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