The West Bengal state-instituted Audit Committee has concluded that out of the total 57 deaths of people tested positive for Coronavirus in the state, only 18 of them can be attributed to COVID-19 while the remaining 39 deaths, it contended, were due to severe co-morbid conditions of the patients.
The panel which was set up by the Mamata Banerjee government on April 3, 2020, after examining the 57 cases of deaths of persons who had tested positive for COVID-19 had submitted its findings on Friday to the state government.
In a letter addressed to the Government of West Bengal, Health and Family Welfare Department, the Audit Committee said that after scrutinising the Bed-Head-tickets, treatment history, laboratory investigation reports, death certificates and other documents sent by the hospitals concerned, it discovered that only 18 of the 57 deaths were due to coronavirus infection.
#BREAKING – West Bengal audit panel on 57 deaths reported so far.— CNNNews18 (@CNNnews18) April 24, 2020
Only 18 deaths occurred due to corona, the other 39 deaths were due to severe co-morbid conditions: West Bengal audit panel.@Sougata_Mukh with details#IndiaFightsCOVID19 | #TotalLockdown | #StayHome pic.twitter.com/O4EpN7SUtW
The letter further adds that the remaining 39 deaths were due to “severe co-morbid conditions” which resulted in the immediate cause of deaths, and COVID-19 was just an “incidental finding”. It added that the patients who died of underlying serious ailments were suffering from co-morbid conditions such as Cardiomyopathy with Chronic Kidney disease, Renal failure, Cerebro-Vascular-Accident, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, Left Ventricular failure in severe hypertension, Multi-organ failure in Type-II Diabetes & Hypertension, Red Cell Aplasia in a case of severe Diabetes and Hypertension and Severe Diabetes with Hypertension with Hypo-natremia.
However, the inter-ministerial central team(IMCT) has raised doubts over the methodology adopted by the West Bengal Audit Committee in ascertaining the number of deaths due to coronavirus in the state. The IMCT team believes that the deaths reported and attributed to COVID-19 are far less than the actual number. The Additional Secretary to the government of India, Apurva Chandra, in a letter written to West Bengal Chief Secretary on Friday, has sought a meeting with the Audit Committee to understand their methodology.
“The principal Secretary (Health) in his presentation on April 23, 2020, gave some reasons for the establishment of the committee of doctors and also mentioned that if a Covid-19 patient dies in a road accident, he/she cannot be said to have died of the infection. The IMCT did not find the reasoning convincing as there is no comparison between a road death and a death in a hospital due to disease,” the letter read. IMCT wrote this after WB health authorities had said that if a Coronavirus patient dies in road accident, that death can’t be attributed to the virus infection.
It may be noted that majority of Coronavirus deaths worldwide have co-morbid conditions, like heart, kidney and lung ailments, diabetes, high blood pressure etc. But such deaths are still considered as caused by the Coronavirus, as the co-morbid conditions are usually long-term, and people die because of the added complications and reduced immunity caused by the virus. But the West Bengal government has decided to define Coronavirus death differently than the rest of the world.
After a visit to the quarantine facilities and hospitals in West Bengal, the IMCT also found that patients were waiting for as long as five days for the results of their Coronavirus tests. The IMCT wrote to WB chief secretary asking for the reason in such delay, and said that if people are kept in quarantine centres and hospitals even after testing negative, they have the risk of contracting the infections from other probable positive persons living with them. The letter also questions the rationale behind keeping dead bodies on hospital beds for hours while the death certificates are issued.