268 Covid ex-gratia pleas on hold, DHS under fire

Health agency under scanner for wrong reportage of deaths

THE GOAN NETWORK | MAY 14, 2022, 12:31 AM IST

Did the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) strictly follow the rule book when it came to reporting Covid deaths in the state? 

Doubts have now begun creeping into the state’s top health agency’s ability to keep its Covid fatality record books in order, with 268 applications filed by relatives of Covid-19 victims under the government’s ‘ex-gratia assistance’ policy being kept on hold. 

According to the DHS records, in all 3832 persons have died in Goa due to Covid so far. The addition of these 268 deaths as Covid deaths, would then take the fatality tally above 4,000. 

A miscalculation of the tally had led the DHS to add an additional 94 deaths that occurred between August 2020 to June 2021 to its comprehensive list of Covid deaths, something which State Epidemiologist Dr Utkarsh Betodkar has conceded. 

“Earlier also such issues had arisen, as private hospitals failed to report the deaths due to Covid. Earlier we had received a list from the social welfare department about the deaths that were not recorded with the DHS. This list was sent to the respective hospitals and verified. The number has been added in our media bulletin,” he said. 

In the case of the fresh 268 applications, the next of kin of deceased patients have attached documents such as laboratory reports certifying the victim having tested positive for Covid-19 (most of the deaths occurred in GMC) and the death summary submitted by the Hospital, which states that the deaths occurred due to Covid-19. 

As per the government scheme, the family of Covid victims are eligible for a one-time benefit of Rs 2 lakh. The Social Welfare Department so far has received a total 2,094 applications under the scheme. Out of these applications, 1,827 have been approved. Around 1,230 applications have been sent to the Accounts Department and 597 applications are still pending. 

It is interesting to note that 268 applications are pending as information about the death of victims due to Covid is not with the Directorate of Health Services. 

After shortlisting the Social Welfare Department has now sent a list of 119 applicants out of 268 pending applications to the Directorate of Health Services for verification. However, the DHS appears to be dragging its feet over the same.

Last year, when the 94 (then unreported) deaths were added to the list of Covid fatalities, the Goa government had warned of action against private hospitals, which had failed to report Covid-related deaths on time.

Speaking to The Goan, Dr Betodkar said that his department would now verify the details in the pending applications with the private hospitals. 

He also said that there was a lot of pressure on the private and government health infrastructure when Covid was at its peak, which may have led to erroneous reportage of Covid deaths. 

“At the time of the Covid wave, there was pressure on the medical facility providers and due to this the reporting and recording may have suffered and this type of thing happens. If there is any such difference, we will certainly verify and update the list,” Dr Betodkar said. 

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