COVID-19 surge: Discrepancy surfaces in Gujarat death figures

Figures from main government hospitals in Ahmedabad, Surat and a few districts reveal deaths many times higher than being reported by the health authorities.

April 26, 2021 11:38 am | Updated 01:13 pm IST - AHMEDABAD:

Ambulances wait outside a COVID-19 civil hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. File

Ambulances wait outside a COVID-19 civil hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. File

Discrepancy between the government figures of COVID-19 deaths and figures from hospitals and crematoria/burial grounds in the State appears growing in Gujarat as the State is grappling with the pandemic’s second wave.

Also read: COVID-19 deaths in Gujarat far exceed government figures

According to the State health bulletin, 157 fatalities were reported on Sunday while 152 deaths were reported on Saturday from across Gujarat. However, figures from main government hospitals in Ahmedabad, Surat and a few districts reveal deaths many times higher than being reported by the health authorities.

“Around 100-125 bodies are sent out from Ahmedabad’s 1,200-bed COVID-19 designated civil hospital daily,” a top source told The Hindu . Similarly in Surat also, 67 bodies from the civil hospital and 34 from the Surat Municipal Corporation run Smimer hospital were dispatched to crematoria by Sunday evening. “Surat continues to witness higher deaths than being reported by the health department officially, because large number of deaths are of those suffering from one or multiple co-morbidities,” a senior official from Surat said.

In both main cities, crematoria have added new furnaces and are almost running 24/7 to cope up with the bodies.

Besides the two main cities, the situation appears to worsen in rural districts where remote villages hardly have healthcare amenities.

Also read: High Court concerned over Gujarat government’s COVID-19 management

Over 100 deaths were reported on Saturday in Kutch district alone, indicating the extent of infection since Kutch is geographically a very large district and has the least population density in the State.

“In Bhuj (Kutch district headquarters), there is no space or time to cremate bodies, which are sent to nearby village Sukhpar where additional furnaces have been installed to cremate bodies being brought from Bhuj town,” a local political leader from Bhuj told The Hindu .

He added that crematoria across the district have run out of wood and voluntary organisations have publicly appealed to the people to donate wood.

The number of obituaries and condolence notes in local papers in Gujarat has been rising steadily, possibly indicating a rise in COVID-19 deaths.

Also read: Gujarat COVID-19 surge overwhelms health infrastructure

In another remote district Patan, 17 persons died in Dharpur COVID-19 hospital on Saturday and Sunday. Six persons reportedly died in ambulance waiting to be admitted in a hospital with 100-bed capacity grappling with hundreds of patients.

A government official serving in one of the districts told The Hindu that people are dying in villages in Patan and Banaskantha districts without even getting tested. “It’s a horrible situation in both districts, which are mainly rural with primary health care almost non-existent in remote villages,”

As The Hindu reported earlier, actual deaths being reported from Gujarat far exceed the death figures provided by the State health department. According to sources, the government has formed a death audit committee in every district that determines the primary cause of deaths in its respective district. After the first wave last year, the State government had issued an order directing an audit of all COVID-19 deaths. Only cases where primary reason of death was determined to be COVID-19 would be classified as ‘COVID-19 deaths’, the order stated.

Also read: Situation in Gujarat is turning grimmer by the day

A senior official serving in a top position in one of the districts said that only when the infected person died of ‘viral pneumonia’ would it be classified as COVID-19 death while those dying of other causes induced by the pandemic would not be classified as COVID-19 deaths by the authorities in the State.

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