Maharashtra: 'Crucial to audit deaths attributed to COVID-19,' say medical experts

Updated: Jul 07, 2020, 07:52 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Medical experts demand an audit into all deaths that have taken place over past few months, hinting at comorbid deaths being included in COVID stats

BMC health workers take away the body of a police officer who died of complications related to the Coronavirus Disease, at Pratiksha Nagar in Sion. File pic/Atul Kamble
BMC health workers take away the body of a police officer who died of complications related to the Coronavirus Disease, at Pratiksha Nagar in Sion. File pic/Atul Kamble

Health experts have demanded an audit of all deceased persons in Maharashtra and Mumbai over the past few months considering the difficulties faced by comorbid patients in receiving treatment. COVID positive patients have in the past complained of not receiving medicines for their other ailments like diabetes, hypertension etc during the course of treatment at hospitals.

Senior health experts from civic and private hospitals admitted to the existence of these areas of concern which need to be looked into.

"It is a fact that patients with comorbidities were unable to get regular check-ups done with their physicians or specialists during the lockdown. Their comorbid conditions might have either aggravated or fluctuated in such situations. When such patients become COVID-19 positive, the comorbid ailments do not get full attention, and at times, are left unattended," a senior doctor attached to a civic-run medical college told mid-day.

The doctor cited an example of a patient who was admitted for showing signs of hypertension (180/110 mmHg) when the hospital insisted on a COVID test which later came out negative.

Dr Wiqar Shaikh, a senior allergy and asthma specialist, said, "This is a bad time for people to fall ill. The concentration of the administration is totally on COVID-19. Other conditions concerning cardiac, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, tuberculosis, stroke etc are either being ignored or neglected by all hospitals including private and government. This is a sad story since several of these conditions are treatable and mortality could be prevented if appropriate action is initiated."

The number of deaths due to these conditions in India, he pointed, far exceeds the death due to COVID-19. "Unfortunately, most of the outpatient departments and hospital consulting rooms are shut and, therefore, all other morbid conditions besides COVID-19 are being overlooked," he added.

Dr Shaikh spoke about a Byculla patient's nightmare. A doctor's brother, diagnosed as COVID-19 positive with hypertension, was not even provided a hospital bed and was forced to get himself treated at home, with oxygen, bronchodilators, and high-level antibiotics. "Even the ambulance to a COVID-19 designated hospital did not arrive to pick up the patient despite several phone calls," he said, adding that medical personnel should also look out for comorbid conditions. "It is imperative that the government does a careful death audit to find out how many people have died of comorbid conditions instead of COVID-19," he insisted.

Dr Ketan Vagholkar, professor of Surgery at DY Patil medical college, too said that "the actual mortality rate of pure COVID infection would be significantly less if these comorbidities were attended too." He added, "During the course of COVID treatment, the multi-disciplinary approach in medical and surgical specialties is grossly lacking, thereby leading to increased mortality. It is of utmost importance to audit every death attributed to COVID in a critical manner." Such an audit, experts believe, will help in bringing down the COVID mortality rate.

Sources within the health department of BMC said, "A high-level committee has already been formed under the leadership of former dean of KEM hospital Dr Avinash Supe to conduct the audit and work is in process."

Also, owing to the fact that most recent deaths at KEM hospital have taken place during the midnight or early morning hours, the civic corporation will soon be installing CCTV cameras in the wards for stringent monitoring, the official added.

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