No Question of Hiding Covid-19 Death Figures, Says BMC amid Controversy

Amid controversy over alleged discrepancy in reporting COVID-19 deaths in Mumbai, the city civic body on Thursday said there was no question of hiding fatality figures and claimed it has asked hospitals to inform it about casualties within 48 hours.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in a statement, clarified that it did not hide any information related to previous 862 COVID-19 deaths, which were added to the fatality count on June 16.

Maharashtra chief secretary Ajoy Mehta had on Tuesday said as many as 1,328 deaths, that took place due to COVID-19, were not reported as fatalities caused by the viral infection in the state.

As many as 862 of these deaths occurred in the areas falling under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) limits, he had said.

This has now been corrected and fatality figures have been updated accordingly, Mehta had said.

In the statement on Thursday, the civic body claimed it has instructed all city hospitals to share information about any death caused by COVID-19 within 48 hours to the BMC's Epidemic Cell in the future.

There is no question of hiding this information at the level of MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai).

In fact, the municipal corporation collected information of all deaths by issuing instructions to hospitals and followed it up seriously, the statement said.

The BMC, spearheading Mumbai's response to COVID-19 crisis, claimed the issue came to the fore when a private hospital reported 17 deaths to the Epidemic Cell on a single day on June 6, and the municipal commissioner ordered a thorough investigation.

It was observed only one death had taken place on that day and the other 16 deaths, which had not been announced earlier, were included in that days report, the BMC claimed in the release.

The civic body said thereafter all public and private hospitals were strictly instructed by the municipal commissioner on June 8 to submit information about past deaths within 48 hours to the Epidemic Cell without any delay.

Highlighting that the Epidemic Cell is the single contact point for reporting deaths by all hospitals under its jurisdiction, the BMC claimed hospitals reported 862 fatalities to the cell between June 12 and 15.

Immediately after receiving the information about 862 deaths, the BMC submitted a report to the Government of Maharashtra, requesting it to put the figure in public domain in a transparent manner on June 15, the statement said.

Next day the government put the data in public domain, it added.

Notably, the BMC also claimed the Epidemic Cell, which is responsible for compiling all information on patients and deaths, was unaware about these fatalities until June 12.

The civic body said doctors and other staff of public and private hospitals, who are responsible for providing this information, are working round-the-clock.

It should be understood that these records could not be retrieved from these hospitals due to inadequate staffing on account of disruptions in many of them at that time and limitations in the means of communication, the BMC said.

The BMC stressed that even before some people started expressing doubts about concealment of this information, it had already collected the data, verified it, corrected the errors in it and submitted it to the government.

These were great proactive efforts by the municipal corporation to bring all these facts before people in a transparent and spontaneous manner, said the civic body.

The municipal commissioner has issued orders to all assistant commissioners in charge of civic wards, asking them to do reconciliation exercise at their level so as to correct and clean the data, the BMC said.