MUMBAI: The city’s Covid-19 death toll could climb substantially as the state government has asked the BMC to revisit hundreds of deaths that may not have been added to the
. Multiple sources confirmed to TOI that Covid-19 mortality numbers in the city could jump by 400-500 though civic authorities were tight-lipped about the exercise. Mumbai’s toll touched 2,250 on Monday.
Principal health secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas issued a notice on June 11 to the civic body stating all municipal corporations and districts had undertaken a data reconciliation exercise. The letter stated state chief secretary Ajoy Mehta had directed that data cleaning be completed by June 15. The letter ended with a caution that “any
brought to notice subsequently would be viewed very seriously.” Sources told TOI the data cleaning exercise was prompted by concerns that many Covid-19 deaths in Mumbai were not being added to the toll.
Speaking to TOI, Ajoy Mehta said the decision to get the data reconciled was made after it was noticed there was discrepancy in many cases.
alleged on Monday that the BMC has not accounted for 951 Covid-19 deaths in the city. He alleged that of the 951 cases, various hospitals had reported 500 cases as Covid-19 deaths, but the death audit committee, which certifies deaths, is yet to certify them as such.
On the discrepancies, Mehta said, “There was an entry of a Covid-positive patient in our system, but he was neither discharged nor his death added to the tally as he may have died due to other medical complications like a cardiac arrest. But since he was Covid-positive, his death should have been reported as a Covid death,” Mehta said. He added that as per the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, the death of a person who has tested positive for an infectious disease has to be reported as death due to that disease, except in three situations -- if the person with the infection died in an animal attack, accident/crime or suicide. “Even if a death has not taken place due to Covid but the person had Covid, the Act clearly says the death can be due to any cause but if he is having an infectious disease, it has to be reported,” Mehta said. He said the death certificate can mention the cause of death as cardiac arrest, but it has to be reported as a Covid-19 death.
Mehta added the exercise of cleaning up data will be completed in the next 2-3 days and will be made public. “There is no reason to hide any data. We want the data to be as clean as possible as it is only then that we can plan for the situation. Also, in this case, the data will be used as records and we cannot be casual about it,” he said. He also said that if it is found someone has not reported deaths as Covid deaths intentionally, action will be initiated.
While senior civic officials couldn’t be reached for an official comment, many said the matter had been blown out of proportion. A senior doctor, who is part of the civic death review committee, said many deaths were yet to be analysed and had hence not been added to the tally. “These are bulky files that have to be downloaded from email. Why will we be hiding deaths? We even label deaths as Covid-suspect,” the doctor said.
Fadnavis, however, in a letter to CM
, said undercounting was a “criminal offence.” Fadnavis said the state had set up death audit committees in every district and at corporation levels, and there were clear guidelines from the WHO and the Indian Council for Medical Research on identifying Covid-19 and non-Covid cases. Besides, the government circular stated every case should be decided in seven days.
He demanded to know who had pressured the committee not to reveal the actual death figures and sought to know what action would be taken against the audit committee members.
Fadnavis alleged that of the 951 cases not reported, 560 were from May and 148 from June. He said hospitals had reported 500 of the 951 cases, and of the remaining 451, 351 deaths were certified as non-Covid and in another 100 a decision was yet to be given. He said the committee must re-verify these 451 deaths and upload details on the Covid-19 web portal. “It needs to be investigated if similar incidents have happened in other districts in the state,” he said.