Gujarat HC picks hole in state govt's Covid-19 data

Gujarat High Court picks hole in state govt's Covid-19 data

According to experts, the government should make the data transparent to say how many beds, of 71,000, are reserved for critical cases, ICU and isolation

Gujarat High Court. Credit: gujarathighcourt.nic.in

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday raised questions over the authenticity of the state government's coronavirus management-related data and said that it had doubts that the set of data was correct. This is the first time that the government has been criticised publicly for not sharing true figures. A division bench of a High Court led by chief justice Vikram Nath raised the doubt on government figures while hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) on the overall condition of Covid-19 prevailing in the state.

On Tuesday, Principal Secretary, Health, Jayanti Ravi had filed an affidavit in the High Court mentioning that by April 12, the state government had made available a total of over 71,000 beds for treating Covid-19 patients across the state, out of which nearly 53% per cent was occupied. This portion of the affidavit was read out in the court by Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, which was live-streamed on YouTube.

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After hearing the numbers, chief justice Nath sternly remarked, "We have strong doubt on this figure that only 53% of beds are occupied...there is so much of noise about beds not being available, patients not being admitted in hospitals, in designated hospitals, government hospitals... this figure appears to be a little...not correct." Trivedi tried to defend the figures by saying that it is because of major district hospitals bearing the maximum loads. The bench didn't entertain clarification and ordered Trivedi to provide "details of status of beds, details of medical infrastructures of the entire state especially smaller districts where situation was much worse."

Trivedi tried to defend the data by saying that "people prefer to go to selected hospitals." He tried to give an example of Ahmedabad but the chief justice said that he wanted data concerning the whole state. In Ahmedabad city, the civic authority has acquired 152 hospitals for Covid-19 patients that have a total of over 5,903 beds, out of which only 1,326 beds are for critical patients. By Wednesday evening, barely two per cent of the beds were available.

According to experts, the government should make the data transparent to say how many beds, of 71,000, are reserved for critical cases, ICU and isolation. They said that the majority of these beds are insolation beds which are largely empty. "The scarcity is for critical beds which are running full across hospitals in the state," said a doctor, part of an expert committee set up by the state government.

During the hearing, senior lawyer Percy Kavina also pointed out that the government should be transparent and admit its mistakes so that they can be rectified. He said that the government should work for building confidence and must ensure transparency. He said at present, the government's words are not credible. "Any action of course correction is welcome," he added.

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For the past two to three weeks, media reports from small towns and cities have been claiming an alarming number of deaths in hospitals but on government records, the numbers are contradictory. The state government doesn't account for deaths of infected persons who had past illness or comorbidities This is the reason while crematoriums are busy round-the-clock in major cities handling corpses, the government data on Covid-19 death across the state shows a low number.