An inspection done by Tamil Nadu’s Department of Public Health (DPH) over death records maintained by the Greater Chennai Corporation’s (GCC) Health Department has raised significant doubts over the total number of COVID-19 deaths reported in Chennai as of June 8.
According to a report by journalist Pushpa Narayan in The Times of India, DPH scrutinised the death records maintained by Chennai Corporation to find that the civic body had recorded at least 236 more COVID-19 related deaths when compared the state register.
As of June 8, as per the daily health bulletin issued by Department of Health and Family Welfare, Chennai had recorded 224 COVID-19 deaths. If the numbers from GCC’s registry are added to this number, it would double the state’s COVID-19 fatality rate from its present 0.7% to 1.5%.
According to the report, this mismatch in data is attributed to a lapse in communication between the hospitals, Chennai Corporation and the State Public Health Department.
Protocols stipulate hospitals to report COVID-19 deaths to the state and city health departments. While hospitals have been submitting this number to Greater Chennai Corporation, the body responsible for issuing death certificates, these numbers have not been added to DPH’s registry. Neither the hospitals, nor the Corporation has informed the DPH. The Corporation may have skipped this crucial updation as it has been under severe stress during the last two months, a source said.
A source in the Railways told TNM that a few retired employees, relatives of employees and three current employees had passed away at the Railway Hospital due to COVID-19, but this was perhaps not informed to the Health Ministry. According to the source, the Health Ministry has sent a notice to the hospital to reconciliate around 20 deaths.
Health Secretary Beela Rajesh has been quoted saying a committee has now been formed to look into the issue and find out why many hospitals have not submitted their tally of COVID-19 deaths to the State Public Health Department within the next one week.
According to the report in TOI, Director of Public Health Dr TS Selvavinayagam has sent a letter to GCC Commissioner G Prakash informing him about the 11-member committee headed by Dr P Vadivelan, DPH (Operational Services Division) formed for this purpose. DPH officials will also look into the deaths that have been terms as “probable COVID-19”.
DPH has also issued a show-cause notice to the government and private hospitals and to submit their death reports in the prescribed format.