Analysis finds under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in six hospitals in Tamil Nadu

NGO Arappor Iyakkam has claimed the number of COVID-19 related deaths is likely to be over eight times higher than the number given by the State government

Updated - June 15, 2021 06:53 pm IST

Published - June 15, 2021 03:59 pm IST - CHENNAI

Photograph used for representational purposes only

Photograph used for representational purposes only


As against the declared number of 863 deaths due to COVID-19 in six government hospitals during April and May, the actual number of COVID-19 related deaths is likely to be 13.6 times higher for these six hospitals, indicating under-reporting of deaths in the State, the NGO Arappor Iyakkam has claimed.

Taking up an analysis of death data in six hospitals -- Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, Coimbatore Medical College Hospital, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College Hospital, Tiruchi, Vellore Medical College Hospital, Karur Medical College Hospital and Tiruppur Government Headquarters Hospital, Arappor Iyakkam, claimed it found that a total of 11,699 deaths occurred during April and May 2021.

Explaining the methodology, Jayaram Venkatesan, convenor of Arappor Iyyakkam said the report was based on the death certificate data released by the State government on a website, and necessitated comparison with previous years. They found that the data had been uploaded for 2019, 2020 and 2021 for these six hospitals.

Data for the number of death certificates issued for males and females were collected for each day from January to May for each of these hospitals for 2019, 2020 and 2021. This was compared with the deaths declared for these hospitals in the daily bulletin released by the Health Department (April and May 2021).

The number of deaths in these six hospitals was around 2,000 per month from January to March 2021. The number of deaths were around 2,000 per month during April and May in the previous years. However, it increased to 3,009 in April 2021 and to 8,690 in May 2021, according to the report.

In total, there were 11,699 deaths in April and May 2021 in these hospitals -- 3,152 in Madurai, 3,464 in Coimbatore, 1,806 in Tiruchi, 1,416 in Vellore, 960 in Karur and 907 in Tiruppur -- as against 4,437 in 2019 and 3,261 in 2020.

In short, this was 7,262 more than the number of deaths in April and May 2019, and 8,438 more than the number of deaths in April and May 2020. In the absence of other major factors, these increased deaths were likely to be due to COVID-19 and its complications, he said.

The report said that there seems to be a gross under-reporting of deaths in Tiruchi hospital, while nil COVID-19 deaths were declared in Tiruppur hospital from April 1 to May 19. But total death certificates issued on these dates were 489.

However, the overall deaths in these six hospitals declared in the media bulletin for April and May (as of June 13) was only 863, he said. If the under-reporting factor of the six hospitals was applied to the entire State, the total number of COVID-19 related deaths may be between 1,08,721 and 1,26,841 against the reported number of 12,943 deaths (April and May), he said.

Mr. Venkatesan said that medical certification for cause of death (MCCD) was not handed over to patients as per ICMR protocols and deaths were heavily under-reported by skipping the mortality code U07.2.

The NGO called for transparency in putting out death certificates, mortality data and its consolidation for hospital as well as home deaths for all three years and issuance of MCCD to relatives of the deceased.

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