CMO debunks rumours on what constitutes a ‘Covid-related death’

Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas
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Not every person who dies while positive for Covid-19 will be recorded as a “Covid-related death”.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas clarified this on an Observer radio programme yesterday.

Over the last week there has been some confusion on social media over what is classified as such.

The uncertainty arose after comments from another medical official who told state media, “persons think that it’s a matter of withholding information when we are not – so I will tell you that of those 43 deaths, 41 were directly related to Covid and two were coincidental deaths. So, these persons died – and by the way when we did a swab, we realised the person already had Covid. It’s like being hit by a bus and then taking a swab and realising you had Covid. Covid didn’t kill you; you died because a bus hit you over and by the way you have Covid. So, 41 were Covid-related”.

Dr Sealey-Thomas shed light on the matter saying, “if you have Covid and a bus would have run over you, you would have not died from Covid and that’s very clear because the World Health Organization does have guidelines on how we code diseases and there is a specific publication on coding for deaths from Covid-19 that we follow”.

Meanwhile, the CMO also expressed the Health Ministry’s desire to improve its relationship with private doctors.

She said this in response to statements made by medical practitioner, Dr Jason Belizaire, who recently said he had recorded 33 cases of Covid-19 over two days last week which were not yet reflected in the official numbers.

Dr Sealey-Thomas said that, although the ministry wishes to work more closely with doctors to ensure that their patients isolate and the numbers are recorded, “there are a number of ways they can report and they have been reporting to the Ministry of Health”.

She continued, “There’s the epidemiology unit. We have dedicated the email address where some physicians do report, and sometimes it could be as informal as a WhatsApp message, we encourage them to report via that email address.

“There is a case investigation form which we ask them to complete because we need information from the patient, not only for our cases but we have a responsibility to report regionally and internationally.”

She said that the physicians and patients are also accountable.

“Private physicians and the patients do have a responsibility as well and we are seeking their assistance because we do have challenges sometimes in reaching persons; persons do not answer their phones, sometimes the telephone number we may have been given may no longer be in service, the telephone number may be incorrect,” the CMO explained.

She urged doctors and patients to help the Ministry of Health.

“Please make sure the information is as accurate as possible … Please if you know you have been diagnosed and you see a strange number, please know that it might be the Ministry of Health trying to reach you,” she added.

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