Nearly 200 ‘Missing’ C-19 Deaths from Tamil Nadu
CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu government has ordered for a Covid-19 death audit report amid several allegations over the credibility of the government’s official corona virus death count in Chennai.
At least 200 more deaths registered in Chennai Corporation records, not reported to the authorities, could nearly double the city’s COVID death tally of 279. This decision was taken after it came to the government’s cognisance that “not less than” 200 deaths suspected to be linked to the coronavirus failed to be registered to the official toll of the state.
The estimate is based on a “preliminary assessment” of the Chennai Corporation’s records, a senior health official told The Indian Express. Till Wednesday evening, the state had reported 326 deaths due to corona virus, including 260 within Chennai city only.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister E Palaniswami denied the charge. “There is no gain for the government by hiding information. We are transparent. Deaths in government hospitals have been accounted for. About deaths in private hospitals we report on the basis of information we get,” he told reporters.
According to officials, the “mismatch” is on a “procedural lapse” since there was no procedure of reporting fatalities recorded in the Chennai corporation’s registry to the government on a day-to-day basis.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Beela Rajesh disagreed with the allegations that the state government had hide the number of Covid-19 deaths to report a lesser toll and said, “A nine-member reconciliation committee to streamline Covid-19 deaths data will look into all such cases”.
She said that a committee has been formed to assess all the deaths suspected to be linked with the infection in Chennai city. “We don’t have to hide the death data, we cannot do that. We have been accurately reporting all Covid-19 deaths as reported from hospitals in the public and private sector.
Following latest reports that there were several deaths that were not reported, we have formed this committee to assess all these alleged Covid-19 deaths in city limits.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, a corporation official said that “there were lapses” in updating the Chennai’s death and birth registry regularly due to a shortage of manpower, and the additional workload of managing the lock down protocols and over 1,000 containment zones. “After the outbreak began, there were delays in compiling this data. Probably, this led to the mismatch,” the official said.
Taking cognizance into the alleged “discrepancy” in maintaining death toll record in Chennai, the Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Dr P Vadivelan, has issued an order which says that “from now on, all the Covid-19 deaths of Chennai Corporation has to be notified on a daily basis”. Vadivelan, who is also heading the reconciliation committee, also ordered the panel “will look into each and every death”.
Moreover, a Chennai-based anti-corruption initiative, Arappor Iyakkam, has filed a written complaint to the Health Secretary, claiming that three coronavirus deaths in a government medical college were not added to the state’s official toll.
Jayaraman Venkatesan of Arappor Iyakkam explained,“Government medical colleges report directly to the Health Department. Even if the department is blaming the city corporation for not reporting about 200 Covid deaths, how did they miss the deaths in a government medical college?”
As per the media report, more than 20 deaths at a Southern Railway hospital at Perambur in Chennai, also, have allegedly not registered in the official death data of the state. However, officials at the hospital claimed they had reported the fatalities to the corporation.T
Chennai has 27,398 coronavirus cases, which is 70 per cent of the state’s tally of 38,716. According to the health department statistics, of the 349 virus deaths in Tamil Nadu, 279 are from Chennai alone.
(Bureau Report with Agency inputs).