HYDERABAD: Compromised access to healthcare during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have not only affected those were infected with the virus, but also those who were in need of medical attention for other ailments.
Data reveals that between April 1, 2020 to April 26, 2021 (the period when the first wave of Covid-19 and few days of second-wave were witnessed), two circles of GHMC — Charminar and Goshamahal — saw the highest increase in death certificates issued year on year.
According to an RTI response received by Express, of the 18 erstwhile circles of the GHMC, 8,424 and 1,940 death certificates were issued in Chariminar and Goshamahal circles respectively, during the aforementioned period. This is nearly a 79% and 63% increase from April 2019-March 2020, when 4,711 death certificates were issued in Charminar and 1,194 in Goshamahal.
Experts said these deaths could either be directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19 and shows how the pandemic, on the whole, claimed more lives.
“Several deaths may have had occurred if someone in need of dialysis could not get it during the lockdown or a diabetic foot patient could not go for surgery. These are also the kind of deaths that occur during a pandemic due to an overwhelmed healthcare system. Some may have also died due to Covid-19 at home and not accounted for in the official figures,” said Professor BR Shamanna, School of Medical Sciences, University of Hyderabad.
Across the two waves of the pandemic, the Health department states that so far, only 3,510 have died due to Covid. The data available via RTI is categorised as per the 18 erstwhile GHMC circles, which have now been reorganised into 30 circles. Thus, the erstwhile Charminar circle now includes Charminar and Falknuma, while the erstwhile Goshamahal circle continues to remain the same. Gachibowli circle follows with a 58% increase in deaths certificates issued. The entire GHMC area saw a 14.2% increase in death certificates issued - from 65,019 to 74,253 - in the above mentioned period.
Fewer death certificates
A caveat here is that in two circles — erstwhile Mehdipatanam and Begumpet — have shown a decline in death certificates issued. In Mehdipatnam, death certificates issued went down to 7,443 from 8,190 (7% decline). In Begumpet, it reduced to 12,545 from 15,027 (16.5% decline).
This could likely be a result of fewer deaths or the fact that fewer families opted to apply for a death certificate due to the lack of awareness or need. To iron out such anomalies, experts said that verbal autopsies are vital for future policy planning. “A major tool we use to count infant mortality is verbal autopsy, where the survey teams collect verbal data on children under the age of five who had died. We now need similar surveys for adults to know how many died due to Covid-like symptoms and how many died without access to healthcare,” added Dr Shamanna.