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Karnataka Health dept dilutes covid bulletin data

Crucial details missing from bulletin; Age, gender not revealed

Published: 18th August 2020 05:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th August 2020 10:09 AM   |  A+A-

A health worker at a free rapid antigen and RT-PCR test camp being held in Malleswaram, in Bengaluru | Shriram BN

Express News Service

BENGALURU: The state health department removed crucial data from the daily corona bulletin on Sunday (August 16), including the date of admission, date of death and if a person died at home, hospital or was brought dead. It was on a day when the state recorded its highest ever toll for a single day at 124.

These crucial sections were, however, reinstated on Monday (August 17). But this is not the first time that the department has tried to dilute the data related to Coronavirus. Since July 22, the entire case history of the patient’s age, location, gender, comorbidities, contact or travel history, whether they are ILI or SARI cases, if they are admitted at a designated government or private hospital, have not been revealed.

“There are two factors here, based on the purpose of data use. One, these details can be used for general communication to the public and the other, for epidemiological study. Critical data on mortality, such as the age groups, gender and location, is useful in understanding the mortality rate,” said Dr B S Nanda Kumar, associate professor, Community Medicine, Ramaiah Medical College.

“If there is a clustering of 20-30 deaths for a particular duration or location, it will lead us back to any common link that caused these deaths,” he said.On June 20, the health department removed data on co-morbidities of those who succumbed to the virus, only to restore it the next day.

On June 27, the data on primary and secondary contacts and if patients were SARI or ILI cases, usually mentioned in the case history of positive patients, was removed. It was brought back three days later.
Dr Antony K R, paediatrician and public health consultant from Kochi who was the former director of State Health Resource Centre in Chhattisgarh, said that not revealing data amounts to lack of transparency. “The more details available for statistical analysis, the better.

Now, we have to guess what happened. A mature and efficient state should not be hiding what has happened because a government is for the public,” said Dr Antony, who was also the former health and nutrition specialist for UNICEF in India.

“Omitting data indicates that the state is covering up lapses or inefficiency. If data is transparent, the entire scientific community and public can gather conclusions. If we hide it, people will view it with suspicion. Ultimately, the truth will come out and the government will be exposed,” he said.

On why details regarding mortalities were omitted, Munish Moudgil, in charge of the state war room, said it may have been missed out inadvertently. “There are around 8,000 patients every day. If the average time for recovery is 14 days, then there are 1.12 lakh patients to watch at any given time and manually tracking their discharge or death isn’t easy. Hospitals don’t enter their discharge or death data into a system. If patients are under home isolation, it becomes even harder to know deaths,” he said.

More from Karnataka.
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