West Bengal: Expert panel to ascertain ‘cause of death’ of Covid-19 positive patients

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on April 06, 2020

West Bengal has set up an expert committee including the Director of Medical Education, to “ascertain” whether deaths of coronavirus positive patients are actually due to the virus.

The committee of five doctors, which was set up on April 5, will have a 24-point check list, including co-morbid conditions, to go through to ascertain “the cause of death” of a person “who has tested positive for Covid-19”. Hospitals, across the State have been asked to adhere to the checklist and attach “supporting documents” for “audit” by the expert committee.

This comes at a time when the State government is involved in a bitter war of words with the Opposition parties, primarily the BJP, over the reporting of Covid-19 cases and mortality.

While there are 61 active cases and three deaths till April 6; the Opposition parties have claimed the numbers are higher. Deaths due to co-morbidity are still not being included and claimed as Covid-19 deaths by the State government.

“The expert committee will ascertain whether it is a death due to Covid-19 or not. It is not a time for politics,” the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, said reacting to criticism over the numbers.

The BJP’s IT cell head, Amit Malviya had lashed out in a tweet: “Hospital administrations across Bengal are under pressure from Mamata Banerjee, who is also the health minister, to underplay Covid related cases by discouraging tests and thwarting doctors from writing Corona as a reason for deaths, despite +ive reports in death certificates.”

Terms of expert committee

Incidentally, the terms of reference for the Expert Committee, includes examining the treatment history, laboratory investigation reports, death certificates and other necessary documents.

Hospitals have to mention the co-morbidities of the deceased patient, that include a history of hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney diseases, COPD, heart diseases and immuno compromised.

Other checkpoints (and supporting documents) provide history relating to duration and type of fever, sore throat, breathlessness, complete blood count, sodium and potassium levels, liver function test, urea and creatinine levels, chest x-rays, ECHO-cardiography, and so on.

Published on April 06, 2020

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