NEW DELHI: The Covid-19 lockdown in India may have resulted in a 22-25% increase in deaths of dialysis patients with the highest, 64% rise in mortality between March and May this year, a new study has suggested.“Comparing mortality trends among dialysis patients in the eight months around the lockdown with the previous year, we document a 64% increase in mortality between March and May 2020 and an estimated 22-25% total excess mortality through July 2020,” the researchers have noted.
The authors are associated with Stanford University, USA and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, with which Abhijit Banerjee who was awarded Nobel prize for economics in 2019 has been associated.
For the project, the researchers obtained a record of all patients undergoing dialysis under the Centre’s flagship PMJAY and reached out to the households before and during to measure excess deaths among dialysis patients. They found that after one month of lockdown, in May 2020, mortality increased to 4.37%, compared with 2.67% in March marking an increase of about 64% and the mortality increase was greater among females and disadvantaged groups.
“Barriers to transportation and disruptions in hospital services appear to be the main drivers of increased morbidity and mortality,” noted authors. The results highlight the unintended consequences of the lockdown on critical and life-saving non-Covid health services that must be taken into account in the implementation of future policy efforts to control the spread of pandemics, they added.
Significantly, the National Health Authority, which operates the PMJAY programme, in a report released in June had said that there had been a decline of only about 6 % in haemodialysis while noting the sharpest declines in institutional deliveries and cancer treatment. As per the study, over 62% of households reported a disruption in access to dialysis care during the lockdown and 42% of households reported being unable to reach their hospital due to travel barriers.
The researchers obtained access to the universe of administrative claims data through October 2019 and chose dialysis and it is the only long-term, non-elective chronic health service provided under the PMJAY.