In September, the worst month in terms of caseload (5.5 lakh cases) and toll (9,910 deaths), more than 27% (2,681) patients died within 48 hours before doctors or medicines could make an impact.
Maharashtra is the worst-hit state in cases as well as fatalities. The state has reported 14.3 lakh Covid-19 cases till date. And the Centre has pointed to delay in reporting (on the part of citizens) during Covid-19 reviews held periodically.
Public health minister Rajesh Tope admitted that six months into the pandemic, there is still lack of awareness about the disease and its symptoms in smaller cities and rural areas. “A large number of deaths from smaller cities and rural areas happen within a few days of being admitted due to this,” said Tope.
However, a review of deaths in the relatively urban Thane circle last month also revealed the same trend: up to 30% of patients died within two days of hospitalization. Dr Avinash Supe, former KEM dean who heads the BMC panel analyzing Covid mortality, said while some delay testing due to fear, many do so because they believe their symptoms may be due to some other condition or virus. “But this leads to a costly delay,’’ added Dr Supe.
A senior state government official said that there is still a lot of social stigma attached to being Covid-positive.
“The state government’s ‘My Family My Responsibility’ campaign was launched on September 15 to tackle such gaps in our Covid response,” said a senior public health department official. Under the campaign, health teams visit homes for early detection and to ensure testing and treatment are carried out in time.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has also directed district administrations to boost public’s confidence in government-run Covid-19 facilities. “Even in smaller cities such as Beed and Latur, people look for private hospitals for two to three days before reaching government facilities in a critical state,” said a senior official from Aurangabad.
A state official said over 11 lakh people have been treated and discharged from public hospitals so far — information that must be publicised to enhance confidence in the system.