The Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) on Friday wrote to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiv Sinha asking him to explain the methodology used by the ‘Committee of Doctors’ in the state to ascertain death due to COVID-19 and also if it is in line with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines.
The IMCT said that the Principal Secretary (Health) in his presentation had mentioned that if a COVID-19 patient dies in a road accident, "He cannot be said to have died of COVID. 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 said.
The team has now sought the government order constituting the committee of doctors to declare the cause of death for COVID-19 patients. Along with that, it has asked to provide case records of all COVID-19 patients where the cause of death is attributed to some other cause by the committee and the time taken by the committee to its conclusion.
The IMCT also wants to know whether such a committee to ascertain the cause of death exists for any other disease in West Bengal and whether such a committee is in line with ICMR guidelines or medical practice, the letter stated.
In a separate letter to the CS, the team also raised some critical observations in relation to their Thursday visits to COVID hospitals in Kolkata. The IMCT said that there were a large number of patients in the isolation wards of CNCI and Bangur hospitals awaiting COVID-19 test results for five days or longer and said that there is a danger of those testing negative acquiring the infection in the hospital while awaiting their test results.
The letter also said that there were reports on social media that dead bodies were lying on beds in a ward and upon inquiry, it was informed that it is possible that dead bodies lying there take at least four hours to issue a death certificate, after which the body is shifted to a mortuary.
"It is not clear why a body should lie in a ward in full view of other patients and shifted to the mortuary even while awaiting death certificate. Records may be furnished for how much time it takes to issue a death certificate and shift a body to the mortuary," the letter stated.
(PTI Photo of Rajiv Sinha)