Andhra Pradesh

Relief in sight

The State government is going to take up the task of ascertaining COVID-19 deaths through the COVID Death Ascertaining Committees (CDAC) formed at the district level following the orders of the Central government and the National Disaster Management Authority for providing an ex gratia of ₹50,000 to the next of kin of those who died due to COVID-19 since March 2020.

The State government has so far (as of October 29, 2021) declared that 14,366 persons have died due to COVID 19. But not all have been given death certificates declaring the cause of death as COVID. Also, the abnormal rise in deaths registered in the districts suggests that the claims for sanction of official ‘COVID death’ certificates and the ex gratia could be more than the number of COVID deaths declared by the Health Department in the State.

For instance, according to responses by the Registrars of Deaths and Births to the Right to Information applications filed by Neelima Kota, director of Institute of Perception Studies, New Delhi, in seven districts – Nellore, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Kadapa, Kurnool, Srikakulam and Anantapur – 3,000 to 7,000 more death certificates were issued during April 2020 and March 2021 compared to the death certificates issued between April 2019 and March 2020. According to the RTI replies, the number of death certificates issued with COVID-19 and co-morbidities as the cause of death was only a few thousand in all the seven districts.

To ascertain the claims of the next of the kin of the victims with no medical certification of cause of death (MCCD) or with no mention of the cause of death as COVID-19 on the MCCD issued earlier, the CDACs were formed by the State as per the guidelines of the Supreme Court. The committees consist of an official from the Revenue Department, the District Medical and Health Officer, GGH Superintendent, subject expert and others. The State government has issued orders for the constitution of these committees and also accorded permission to the District Collectors to provide financial assistance from the funds of the State Disaster Response Fund recently.

Guidelines

According to the guidelines, the next of kin of the deceased have been given an advantage in the process of claiming the death as COVID fatality by submitting relevant documents before the CDAC which will declare COVID deaths in compliance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Deaths that occur within 30 days from the date of testing or date of being clinically determined as COVID-19 cases will be treated as ‘deaths due to COVID’ even if the death takes place outside the hospital like home or at an in-patient facility. Also, a COVID-19 case, while admitted in the hospital or an in-patient facility beyond 30 days till death will be treated as a COVID-19 death.

The guidelines specify that deaths due to poisoning, suicide, homicide, accident and others will not be considered as COVID-19 deaths even if COVID-19 is an accompanying condition.

The committee will also ensure that certificates already issued without mentioning the cause of the death are reissued.

All claims must be settled within 30 days of submission of required documents and disbursed through Aadhaar-linked Direct Benefit Transfer procedures. Otherwise, a clear reason for the same shall be recorded.

The certificates issued with a unique number by the committee will be examined by the special cell set up under the office of the Collector and headed by the District Revenue Officer before forwarding the same to the District Disaster Management Authorities for sanction of funds.

However, the guidelines are yet to be communicated to the committees. “We are awaiting the guidelines from the State government,” says a member of the Krishna district CDAC.


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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 8:18:03 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/relief-in-sight/article37292981.ece