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ICMR 'rules' restrict states from reporting deaths due to O2 crisis

ICMR rules restrict states from reporting deaths due to O2 crisis
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New Delhi: As the statement of Minister of State for Health Bharati Praveen Pawar that 'no Covid deaths were reported due to lack of oxygen' has sparked a fresh row that led to a huge political backlash.

Opposition parties are hitting out at the government for misleading the Parliament as the government's statement has contradicted the hard fact that almost every hospital across the country faced an acute shortage of medical oxygen and several Covid-19 patients lost their lives as they didn't get it on time.

Despite knowing the fact the lots of patients died to oxygen shortage, the state government didn't report such deaths attributing to oxygen shortage as the guidelines issued by the India Council of Medical Research (ICMR) 'strictly' prohibited them (states) from reporting deaths due to lack of oxygen.

As per a document released by the ICMR's National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (NCDIR) tilted "Guidance for the appropriate recording of Covid-19 related deaths in India", it has been categorically mentioned

that "asphyxia, respiratory arrest/failure, and respiratory failure among others" cannot be mentioned as a cause of death.

"Avoid mode of dying as the cause of death as a mode of dying merely tells you that death has occurred and is not specifically related to the disease process," the ICMR guidelines stated.

Given that doctors have to follow the national guidelines and state SOPs, so they avoided mentioning 'asphyxia' or 'respiratory arrest' or 'respiratory failure' in the medical certification of cause of death (MCCD) Form 4 (institutional deaths)/4A (non-institutional deaths), which is submitted to the Office of Registrar General, India (ORGI).

This may the reason that states' didn't count the deaths that occurred due to the lack of oxygen. In some states, hospitals have submitted their responses in courts about the deaths due to oxygen shortage.

In Maharashtra, 22 patients had died after the oxygen supply was disrupted at a Nashik hospital due to leakage in an oxygen storage plant, but the state's Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday said that the state government never reported any death due to shortage of oxygen during the second wave of Covid-19. Similarly, in Delhi's hospitals, many patients had died due to oxygen shortage as the supply of medical oxygen was disrupted.

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