The Health Management Information System (HMIS) by the National Health Mission’s (NHM) is a data collecting system which acts as a building block in the management and decision making in health facilities and organisations. During the pandemic period, the portal has been providing the various number to deaths, infection and other statistics related to Covid. But in the report shown of May and April this year, the number of deaths was twice more than the official covid toll and was marked as to have been caused due to unknown causes.
A latest report by Indiaspend.com had pointed out that in May 2021 alone, the portal showed over 300,000 more deaths compared to May 2019, which is 2.5 times the official Covid death count for the same period. An accurate account of the death toll is important to understand how big the threat of the virus is but India’s Covid death toll has always been considered as incomplete owing to the many unaccounted statistics. Speaking to NDTV, Former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian said that deaths in India cannot be measured reasonably. “We have traditional weakness in our capacity to do this. It is just that our systems are not as good as they should be. We all need to know the full scale of the catastrophe to learn a lesson and be prepared for future,” he said. He also added that in this pandemic, no government and society has come out looking good. All the countries have made serious mistakes.
Coming back to the report by Indiaspend.com, it noted that the HMIS portal collects data from over 200,000 health facilities across the country. These are predominantly public facilities in rural areas, but also include some private and urban facilities. The reality is that this data does not give the full picture. Even if this data is limited, the report highlights that “in May 2021, the number of deaths shot up further to 511,000, over twice the usual monthly deaths of any recent month, a 175% increase compared to May 2020 and a 150% increase over May 2019.”
Before the pandemic period, the biggest increase in deaths were due to causes like fever and respiratory diseases but considering a month like May with the absence of any other reason, these death tolls have to be taken as to be due to Covid, explained the report. Another fact that is revealed in that report is that it collects data mainly from the rural areas where government health care is the only option for the people here and hence the portal misses out much of the data from the Private hospitals. Other statistics in the portal are the number of maternity deaths due to various causes in India. These numbers also show a large percentage of these deaths due to unknown reason. The report said that the numbers also show a significant increase in maternal mortality in May 2021, particularly from undefined or unknown causes. “The NHM’s HMIS records nearly 3,000 maternal deaths in May 2021, an over 82% increase over maternal deaths reported in May 2019,” the report stated.