Action taken for alleged failure in monitoring statistics with regard to cholera deaths

The State government on Monday suspended the Chennai Corporation’s city health officer P. Kuganantham, for an alleged failure in monitoring vital statistical information.

The suspension was the outcome of a preliminary inquiry by the civic body’s joint commissioner (health) into the issue of news reports that said 29 cases of cholera deaths had been reported in the city since January this year.

Political parties including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Bharatiya Janata Party held protests in the city recently, demanding immediate measures to control the spread of cholera. As leaders such as M.K. Stalin blamed the civic body for the cholera deaths, the Corporation conducted an inquiry. The civic body then said that it was because of a “data entry error” by some of its officials that the figure of 29 cholera deaths had been arrived at and reported by the media.

Corporation officials said data entry operators had erroneously clicked on ‘cholera’ instead of ‘cardiac arrest’ in the drop-down list of 46 options that are given as standard causes of death in their database. Officials verified all the original medical reports of the 29 alleged cholera deaths and found that 24 of the cases were due to cardiac arrest. Some other deaths were due to chronic liver disease, officials said.

According to an official press release, it is the duty of the city health officer to ensure that there are no errors made in the data being entered into the Corporation’s health database. It is also his duty to continuously monitor and check the causes of death throughout the city.

Meanwhile, Corporation commissioner D. Karthikeyan also placed under suspension four persons including statistical officer Muhammed Khali Fadullah Sheriff, two sanitary inspectors of zone 11 (Valasaravakkam) Selvarani and Martin D. Borus and one sanitary inspector of zone 8 (Anna Nagar) T. Moses Prabhakar. This was for dereliction of duty and failure to monitor data entry of vital statistical information.

Sources said a detailed inquiry would be conducted into the matter. Additional health officer K.T. Thangaraj will now be the city health officer in-charge.

People suspected to have cholera have been admitted to the Communicable Diseases Hospital in Tondiarpet and the Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital.

Affected areas included Bhoobathy Nagar, Ossankulam and Pullapuram, localities in the vicinity of the Chetpet railway station. Bhoobathy Nagar and Ossankulam, has several rows of low-income group apartments, that are sandwiched between Chetpet Railway Station and Poonamallee High Road.

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