Testing method under cloud after spate of sudden deaths
With more people dying within a few hours of getting admitted to government hospitals, the new protocol issued by the State government to test only those showing symptoms of COVID-19 have come under the scanner.
According to documents available with DT Next, a 53-year-old man who was admitted at Government Stanley Medical College Hospital at 2.06 pm on June 1 died at 8.50 pm on the same day. In another case, an 82-year-old person died at 6 pm on June 5. He was admitted to the hospital at 4 pm the previous day. As per the death memorandums issued by the hospital, both of them had the infection.
City residents allege that the Greater Chennai Corporation was turning away those without any symptoms at sample collection centres, with tests being conducted only in the case of persons with symptoms. “Due to this, my friend had himself tested at a private lab. Test results are released only after one or two days, which delays the admission process,” said Jeevanantham (name changed). Jeevanantham himself had tested positive a few weeks ago and recovered from the disease.
A senior doctor from Stanley hospital said most of patients tend to come to the hospitals only after they reach the critical stage. “We had some patients who died merely hours after they were tested positive for the virus,” he added.
On the field too, the Corporation stopped testing family members and contacts of infected persons if they do not show symptoms. Data released by the Health department show nearly one in five persons tested in the city were positive, suggesting the need for more tests.
Dr Sivakumar, a member of the expert committee set up by the State government, said many infected persons do not show any symptoms and remain normal most of the time. “However, their blood oxygen saturation values would decrease without them realising it, and there is risk of ‘silent hypoxia’ (where the oxygen level in the blood goes down alarmingly, which could be fatal). We are monitoring the oxygen level of asymptomatic patients in COVID care centres regularly,” he explained.
Even though deaths are occurring within a few hours of admission, Public Health Director Dr TS Selvavinayagam said the tests would be conducted based on the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). “There will be no increase or decrease in the tests, we will follow ICMR,” he said.
As the total number of positive cases in the city is nearing 25,000, Valasaravakkam zone also has crossed 1,000 cases. All the seven core city zones, namely Tondiarpet, Royapuram, Thiru-Vi-Ka Nagar, Anna Nagar, Teynampet, Kodambakkam and Adyar, have already breached the 1,000 mark and are zooming towards or crossed 3,000.
According to Chennai Corporation data, Valasaravakkam reported 1,054 cases on Monday morning, of which 329 are active. As many as 719 persons have recovered and six patients died.
It may be noted that most of the cases in the zone are from the Koyambedu Market cluster as the market is located very close to Valasaravakkam zone. Overall, 10,637 patients are still under treatment.
As per the records, Royapuram has 3,859 and Tondiarpet has 2,835 cases. Teynampet and Kodambakkam zones have 2,518 and 2,431 cases respectively. Also, Thiru-Vi-Ka Nagar, Anna Nagar and Adyar have 2,167, 1,974 and 1,274 cases respectively. Besides, Tiruvottiyur (813) and Ambattur (807) are also nearing 1,000 cases.
“There are more than 39,000 streets in the city, of which only around 4,500 streets have active cases. Only 6,500 streets (16 per cent) have been affected by the virus,” a Chennai Corporation official said.
The official added that the civic body has decided to increase the number of public toilets.