OB Exclusive: Adequate Oxygen, Medicines & Beds Kept COVID Mortality Rate Low, Says Odisha Health Secy

Bhubaneswar: With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc, Odisha’s health sector has for the past 15 months possibly been fighting its toughest battle. The other concern is the rise in the number of death being reported daily. While the COVID graph is now showing a declining trend (from 12,852 cases on May 22 to 4339 on June 14), the fatalities in June has already crossed the 600-mark against 660 in May.

Taking time out of his hectic schedule, Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra in an exclusive interview to Odisha Bytes (OB) said the eastern state has registered low mortality rates because of efficient management. Excerpts:

OB: Of late, Odisha is reporting more COVID deaths though the state is witnessing a decline in fresh infections. What is the reason for the rising deaths?

PKM: The COVID casualty figure is released to the public after a proper audit done at the district and state levels in tune with Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines. The daily death report has nothing to do with the current fatalities, which has been showing a downward trend like the new infections. The deaths, which took place in early June and May when the cases suddenly shot up, are now being added to the tally after being audited by an expert committee.

OB: There have been allegations of under reporting of COVID deaths. Would you agree that all COVID mortalities are not being reported?

PKM: Not at all. There is no question of under reporting. As I said, all COVID deaths are properly audited and taken into account following the due process. Eventually, the death certificates will be issued. There is a general perception that deaths taking place are COVID deaths. People die for other reasons as well. In some cases, even bodies of non-COVID patients are being carried in body bags because of the prevailing situation.

OB: If Odisha under pressure because Bihar had to report higher COVID mortalities following the high court’s intervention.

PKM: There is nothing like that. The Bihar issue is different. Our process is well-established and we monitor every bed ticket of every COVID hospital.

OB: Odisha has during the second wave reported a low mortality rate though its caseload is one of the highest among the larger states. Why is it so?

PKM: We could achieve this with proper monitoring of hospital admission and hospital management. Unlike certain other states including Delhi, Odisha did not experience any shortage of oxygen. We also have an adequate stock of medicines (Remdesivir and Favipirabir) which worked wonders for us. There has been no paucity of beds also. All these have ensured less mortality.

Odisha’s CRF at 0.16 per cent during the second wave is the lowest among 21 large states.

OB: What is the status of the state government’s decision to purchase ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machines?

PKM: We have decided to procure six ECMO machines and are taking steps to get those. I have also sought the finance department’s approval for hiring the specialised manpower to operate those machines.

OB: Considering the prevailing situation, do you think Odisha is ready to start the unlock process after the current lockdown phase ends on June 17?

PKM:  The state government will assess the situation based on test positivity rate and other factors. It will then take a suitable decision keeping everyone’s best interests in view.

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