Deccan Chronicle

Telangana is under-reporting COVID-19 deaths, say mortuary workers

Deccan Chronicle| Sanjay Samuel Paul

Published on: July 15, 2020 | Updated on: July 15, 2020

COVID-19 fatalities have shot up to 30 at Gandhi Hospital, they say

Orderlies at the Gandhi Hospital, Hyderabad's main COVID-19 treatment facility, say deaths due to the viral disease are being under-reported. (DC Photo: SSR)

Orderlies at the Gandhi Hospital, Hyderabad's main COVID-19 treatment facility, say deaths due to the viral disease are being under-reported. (DC Photo: SSR)

Hyderabad: On Monday, the daily bulletin released by the Telangana health department in its COVID-19 bulletin said there were 9 deaths due to COVID-19 in the entire state. On Tuesday, it reported 10. All through this month, the daily toll due to COVID-19 reached double digits only three times.

Hospital workers Deccan Chronicle spoke to disputed the figures acknowledged by the state's official COVID-19 bulletin. They say COVID deaths are being seriouusly under-reported in Telangana.

On Monday, two employees of Gandhi Hospital, the main COVID-treatment facility in Hyderabad, said there had been no less than 30 deaths at just that hospital alone. "Twenty-five bodies were taken away for last rites after identification by their families," said V. Satyam (name changed), a contract worker who prepares the bodies to be handed over to famiies.

Another contract worker, E. Prasad (name changed), said: "There have been more than 20 deaths per day over the past many days. The mortuary is full. Sometimes, bodies are left in the wards because there is no space available in the mortuary."

The state government has in the past repeatedly denied under-reporting COVID-19 deaths, claiming that it did not have anything to hide on that front. In earlier instances when there were reports that COVID-19 deaths were not being declared, it had said it takes two to three days to go through a deceased patient’s records and ascertain the actual cause of death.

Though top health department officials said two weeks ago that they would include details of the deceased in the bulletin, including their home town, no such details are being provided. Nor is there a break-up of the number of deaths at various government and private hospitals.

Satyam and Prasad said they and their fellow workers are repeatedly reminded by the higher-ups that it is easy to sack contract staff. "We are the ones who help patients with their diapers, shifting them from one ward to another, and, in the event of a patient dying, packing the body as per the Covid-19 protocol. We also help families identifying their deceased kin and shift the bodies to ambulances before they are taken away for last rites," Prasad said.

Satyam and Prasad are paid Rs 8,500 per month. Satyam, who was married four years ago, and lives not far from the hospital, said his landlord was constantly objecting to him returning home after work. "Even my best friends have stopped meeting with me, because I work at Gandhi Hospital and I do what I do as part of my work," he said.similar story. Just a year older than Satyam, in his mid-twenties, Prasad said: "When Gandhi hospital was in the process of being declared a Covid-19 centre, I sent my wife to my in-laws’ place. Whenever I go to see her now, my mother-in-law prevents us from meeting because I work at Gandhi hospital. She has told me not to return until the pandemic is over."

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