A Morbid Half-Truth

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Why comorbid patients die in govt hospitals, not in corporate hospitals

Ever since the coronavirus surfaced in China in November 2019, it has killed over 7.35 lakh people across the world. The highest number of COVID-related deaths, numbering over 1.63 lakh, has been reported from the United States of America. Brazil lost the second highest number, over 1.01 lakh people. India has lost the third highest number of lives at 45,257, according to the latest figures released by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry. More than half of the total COVID cases in the world have been reported from the three countries, the US, Brazil and India. The Indian government authorities largely blame comorbid conditions for mortality. This has been the propaganda note they have been harping on, joined zealously by the chorus of state governments. However, medical scientists hold the view that there is limited data and information about the impact of underlying medical conditions among the people found to have coronavirus; so it cannot be conclusively said that these medical conditions actually increased the risk for severe illness from COVID-19. As there is no conclusive evidence, the government authorities in Goa and India are just assuming and trying to make people believe that the pre-existing disorders in the patient were exacerbated by coronavirus infection.

It is true that people with comorbid conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and should take all precautions to save themselves from contracting coronavirus. People suffering from cancer, diabetes, HIV, asthma, cardiovascular problems and pregnant women are at higher risk if they contract coronavirus. However, the fact cannot be ignored that people suffering from cancer, diabetes, HIV asthma, cardiovascular problems and pregnant women before the coronavirus appeared had been managing their illness with their special treatment. If we were to totally believe the government authorities’ claim it would appear that COVID itself is not a fatal disease; it is only a catalysing factor for the death of a COVID patient, not the cause of death. We hope the government accepts that with the limited data which is yet to be deciphered scientifically it may take some more time for the scientists to come to conclusion about actual fatality of the new disease.

Public health specialists have faulted the system of recording of COVID-19 deaths in the “comorbidity category” in India and said that this was an “artificial distinction without any scientific basis” which should not be encouraged. The country did not have such a category in the beginning. It was first introduced in West Bengal, only to be discarded later. But this provision became handy for the health authorities across the country, who have used it to certify the deaths of almost all patients due to comorbidity. In Goa most deaths have been attributed to comorbid conditions with hardly any death being attributed directly to COVID. The authorities get away with their half-truth as the death pattern in India matches with the global trend wherein elderly and other people with comorbid conditions fall prey to the virus more often than those without such conditions.

The half-truth about comorbidity being the cause of death of COVID patients is further exposed with the abundant examples of rich, affluent and powerful persons with comorbidity getting out of hospital with COVID negative results. Ministers and celebrities from the entertainment world with comorbidity went to private hospitals when they tested positive and came out cured. It is significant to note that the mortality of comorbid patients is much higher in government COVID hospitals than in private hospitals. It suggests that it is the money that makes the difference between life and death for a comorbid COVID patient, and not comorbidity. It would not be absurd to presume therefore that the same comorbid patients who went to government hospitals when they tested positive and are no more in the world today might have lived on if they had a million or two to afford to go to a private hospital. The lower mortality of comorbid patients in corporate hospitals and the higher mortality of comorbid patients in government hospitals also clearly suggests that the corporate hospitals are using better lines of treatment and better human and technological resources in order to prevent the lethal intertwining of comorbidity and COVID.

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