New Delhi: The number of Covid-19 deaths in Delhi has been under the scanner for discrepancies between the government figures and those the hospitals have reported, leading to an upwards revision to 115 until Thursday, 14 May.
But now, data accessed by ThePrint raises new questions about even this revised number of deaths in the city.
The consolidated figures for Covid-related deaths provided by the designated cremation and burial grounds in the national capital is 443, which includes confirmed as well as suspected cases.
Between 14 March and 14 May, Nigam Bodh Ghat, the largest of the designated crematoria, reported 184 Covid-related funerals, while the Punjabi Bagh crematorium reported 135. Among burial grounds, the one at Delhi Gate registered 105 Covid-related funerals, while the ones at Mangolpuri and Buland Masjid reported 10 and nine, respectively.
The breakup of confirmed and suspected cases is not available as the cremation and burial grounds are supposed to treat them under the same standard operating procedure, as laid down by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Avdesh Sharma, in-charge of the Nigam Bodh Ghat, said: “The tally is for both, but confirmed cases outnumber the suspected ones.”
ICMR guidelines state that deaths in cases where test results are awaited but Covid-19 symptoms are present will be recorded as ‘suspected deaths’, while those testing negative but having symptoms will be mentioned as ‘clinically-epidemiologically diagnosed Covid-19’.
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NDMC & SDMC corroborate funeral figures
The figure of 443 Covid-related funerals has been corroborated by the heads of the standing committees of both the North and South Delhi municipal corporations.
Jai Prakash, standing committee chairperson of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, told ThePrint Wednesday evening: “It is disconcerting as the variation between the government numbers and funerals is huge.”
Bhupender Gupta, standing committee chairman of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, added: “While 27 Covid-19 funerals were conducted at Punjabi Bagh in April, over 70 deaths were reported until 10 May.”
However, a senior Delhi health department official said since the funeral data included both confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases, one could not compare it to the government’s figures.
ThePrint tried to contact Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, Health Secretary Padmini Singla and Health Services Director Nutan Mundeja but the calls and messages did not elicit a response. The health secretary’s office, in fact, directed the query to the director, health services, saying that’s the office that prepares the health bulletin, but there was no response from this office.
Hospitals don’t send out many bodies without confirmation
Hospitals were earlier held responsible for not submitting details of the total number of deaths in time to the death audit committee of the Delhi government.
The Delhi government reported 42 new deaths over the past three days — 13 on Tuesday, 20 on Wednesday and nine on Thursday — taking the official toll to 115. However, health department officials have clarified that the increases were due to incorporating pending data from two months, not single-day figures.
Tuesday’s 13 deaths were reported from the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital, while the most reported Wednesday were from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
Asked about the disparate figures, Lady Hardinge Hospital medical director Dr N.N. Mathur told ThePrint: “While it is true that the crematoriums include the same standard operating procedure for confirmed and suspected cases, our hospital usually keeps the body in the mortuary until the test results are out.”
Mathur added that family members usually like to know of such cases before the body is sent for a funeral, and so, the ‘suspected’ cases at the crematoria or burial grounds haven’t come from Lady Hardinge Hospital, which has so far reported 10 deaths, of which only two appeared on government records until Wednesday.
The PRO for RML hospital, meanwhile, told ThePrint: “In 99 per cent of cases, we do try to confirm the presence of Covid-19, since we are the nodal hospital anyway. In many cases, we are referred cases where the person is critical and dies within 10 minutes of reaching us.
The PRO added: “Comorbidities are also reasons for Covid-related deaths, and we haven’t had too many ‘suspected’ case deaths, although it is difficult to put a number to the suspected cases in particular.”
Until Thursday, RML Hospital had recorded 79 deaths (72 plus seven referred to it in critical condition), but the government bulletin from Wednesday only showed 10 deaths from here.
The government’s Wednesday bulletin showed 26 deaths at LNJP Hospital. While sources claimed the number was higher, the medical superintendent said they were asked not to divulge details, and medical director Dr Suresh Kumar did not respond to calls.
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