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45% of people who died in 2020 did not receive medical care, according to new government data

Here’s a grim statistic: About 45 out of every 100 people whose death was recorded in 2020 – the first year of the pandemic – died without receiving medical attention. The number is the highest ever recorded in the country; in 2019, about 34.5% of reported deaths coincided with the absence of medical care. In 2010, the number was 10%.

These data were published in the government’s annual report on Vital Statistics of India; using data from the Civil Registration System (CRS) which records all births, deaths and stillbirths. The general conclusion is that the registered deaths Pink by 6.2% in 2020. The first wave of the pandemic cast a harsh light on India’s health infrastructure which was built on privatized scaffolding. It was a crisis that continues to unfold even today in the form of hospital bed shortages, strained medical professionals and deficient insurance policies. That more people died without receiving medical care in 2020 than any other year on record seems then to be a resorbable fact.

But this year’s CRS contains an important metric – one that describes how difficult it was for people to access health facilities during the first wave of Covid19. This is perhaps the first statistical insight to back up, if not validate, the accounts of thousands of people whose loved ones have died as a result of a lack of medical care – arguably, many of them preventable if it is not because of a failing medical infrastructure.

It is also true that sometimes numbers fail and can be misleading in terms of painting an incomplete picture. Here are some basic rules: the CRS displays registered deaths; the actual number could be considerably higher because many reports on the spectacle of India’s pandemic mismanagement. Second, the data does not specify how many of these people had Covid or died from Covid19; the additional deaths could be due to a host of reasons – one of which could be health systems overburdened by Covid19, so other diseases have received little attention. Third, the upward trend in deaths is consistent with the trend of the past decade, with more births and deaths recorded today than in the early 2010s.

But the data on the absence of medical care remains a telling indicator nonetheless.


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Death records – the numbers, the cause – are a thermometer for assessing a country’s health infrastructure; the pandemic only strengthens their purpose. “…the pandemic has highlighted a long-standing problem: in the world’s second most populous country, policymakers have historically paid too little attention to tracking deaths, with serious implications for public health” , said journalist Disha Shetty. Noted in yarn science.

Death records are characterized by two types: “in absence of medical care” and “in institutional care”. The latter includes cases registered only in hospitals and clinics, thus excluding deaths at home. Interestingly, what the 2020 data tells us is that while there was an increase in the number of deaths from lack of medical care, the number of deaths recorded in care facilities has decreased.

There is nothing abnormal about that. “The proportion of deaths in the absence of medical care has steadily increased over the past decade, and the proportion of deaths in custody has decreased,” said Amitabh Sinha. underline in The Indian Express. While CRS data shows a decline in deaths in facilities over the past few years, it’s important to ask who gets access to these medical facilities in the first place.

“But due to the pandemic, an unusual acceleration of these trends has taken place in 2020. These trends are expected to be reinforced in 2021 data, when a large number of Covid deaths also occurred due to lack of access to hospital care,” Sinha added.

This shapes the way the discourse around India’s Covid19 deaths unfolds. The government strenuously refutes any domestic and international claims that India is downplaying the death toll from Covid19. The WHO put the estimated mortality from Covid19 at around 40 lakhs (in 2021) – about eight times that of India officially reported coronavirus toll of 4,80,000. In this battle of figures, the government is questioning the methodology of the WHO. The CRS death data for 2020 fits into this context; according to to NITI Aayog (Health) member Dr VK Paul, it may “debunk claims that India is massively underreporting Covid-19 deaths”. But the experts Argue there remains a concerted effort to hide India’s death toll, all to ensure the “government looks good”.

As Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto and director of the Center for Global Health Research, mentioned“Counting the dead helps the living. The main benefit of having data on who dies and when is being able to understand what can be done about it today.

The number of people dying without medical care is the highest ever recorded; to think that this barely covers the true death toll is even more shocking. The numbers reveal more than they tell and can serve as a tangible reminder of the emotional and physical distress of the pandemic. Even beyond that, it is a window into understanding the shortcomings of a health system that renders the “have-nots” invisible.

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