The Delhi government on Sunday acknowledged the discrepancies in the number of coronavirus deaths reported by hospitals and the numbers that it has announced. However, the government blamed hospitals for allegedly not reporting the deaths in a timely and regular way, according to the Hindustan Times.

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority, in a circular, said that the government formed a Death Audit Committee on April 20 to audit every Covid-19 death on a daily basis. It said the government had directed public and private hospitals to provide details of deaths to the committee.

“It has come to notice that both public and private hospitals [both Covid dedicated and non Covid hospitals] are not reporting the deaths of positive cases of Covid-19 occuring in the hospitals in a timely and regular manner,” the circular alleged. “And whereas, it has further been observed despite repeated reminders, the death summaries of the deceased patients are not being provided to the Death Audit Committee, resulting in incorrect/delayed reports being submitted.”

Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev, who represents the government, said that both public and private hospitals must now follow the standard operating procedure set forth in the circular for reporting deaths of coronavirus-positive patients.

According to the SOP, the hospitals must report the deaths by email to the District Surveillance Unit and State Surveillance Unit of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme of the Delhi government on a daily basis. It said that even if no one has died, a NIL report should be submitted to the units.

The circular said all hospitals treating Covid-19 patients must appoint a nodal officer to take care of the reporting of deaths. It said the deaths must be reported by 5 pm along with all relevant documentation, as the Death Audit Committee will hold a meeting every day at 5.30 pm.

The committee has so far conducted an audit of 38 deaths, PTI reported on Sunday. One of the members of the committee said that in some cases, the primary cause of death may not be the coronavirus. “They might be Covid-19 positive but the primary cause may be due to a co-morbid condition,” the official said.

The discrepancy

According to officials from Delhi hospitals, 92 people had died of Covid-19 till Friday, the Hindustan Times reported on Saturday. However, according to the state government, the toll was only 68.

As of Sunday morning, the central government’s figure for Delhi stood at 73. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal confirmed the official figure in his press briefing via video on Sunday. Kejriwal also asserted that the number of deaths in the national capital is very low. He said Delhi has reported 6,923 coronavirus cases, out of which 2,069 have recovered, while 91 patients are in the intensive care unit and 27 are on ventilator.

The discrepancy was first highlighted in the Congress Party’s mouthpiece, National Herald, in an article on Friday.

The toll of 68 shared by the Delhi government in its health bulletin on Friday was based on data collected from 10 hospitals, PTI reported. According to the bulletin, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences reported two deaths, Safdarjung Hospital reported four, Ram Manohar Lohia 26 and Lady Hardinge Medical College none. The bulletin recorded only 53 deaths, and said that the remaining 15 had taken place in “other hospitals”, without identifying them.

But an AIIMS official said the toll at the facility was 14. AIIMS Medical Superintendent Dr DK Sharma said the difference in figures could be the result of the Kejriwal-led government counting figures only from the AIIMS Trauma Centre, which has been designated a Covid-19 hospital, and not from the Jhajjar facility.

Officials at Safdarjung Hospital said the toll was 23, while those at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital said 52 deaths had been reported. “We are providing them [government] data regularly and correctly,” Ram Manohar Lohia Medical Superintendent Minakshi Bhardwaj told PTI. “It is up to them to incorporate it in their chart. We do not understand why they are showing incorrect figures.”

Lady Hardinge Medical College said it had given the government a figure of three deaths.

Aside from Friday’s bulletin, there were even more discrepancies in the numbers. According to The Indian Express, officials at Lok Nayak Hospital said the facility had recorded 47 deaths due to Covid-19. The Hindu reported that the toll at this hospital till Friday evening was 55. However, the Delhi government had claimed the number was just five.

Congress claims Delhi government, Centre not transparent

The Congress on Saturday accused both the Centre and the Delhi government of not being transparent in reporting coronavirus cases, the Hindustan Times reported.

Congress leader Ajay Maken asked the Centre to tell the people about the exact impact of the coronavirus outbreak, so that they could plan accordingly. He claimed that central government officials had been making contradictory statements.

Maken also demanded that the Arvind Kejriwal-led government in Delhi be more transparent in reporting coronavirus cases. “It is a matter of shame that the national Capital is witnessing a sorry state of affairs in the fight against the pandemic,” Maken said.

Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain had on Friday dismissed allegations that the AAP government was hiding the real numbers. “If we had to hide data, we wouldn’t have released Thursday’s number of fresh Covid-19 cases which was the highest single-day spike of 448 cases,” Jain had said. “We would have said there were only 48 new cases, but we did not. Once the reports come, the hospitals have to inform the government immediately.”

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