After SC nudge, Centre issues guidelines for COVID-19 death certificate
The Centre on Saturday filed a compliance affidavit before the Supreme Court, stating that it has framed guidelines to simplify the process for the issuance of the COVID-19 death certificate. The guidelines were issued jointly by Health Ministry and the ICMR on September 3. This comes after the SC issued directions stating that death certificates for COVID-19 fatalities must specify COVID-19 as the cause.
How do the guidelines define a COVID-19 case?
According to the guidelines, COVID-19 cases are those which are diagnosed through RT-PCR tests, molecular tests, rapid-antigen tests, or clinically determined through investigations at a hospital or in-patient facility by a treating physician. However, the guidelines maintain even if COVID-19 is an accompanying condition, deaths that occurred due to poisoning, homicide, or accident will not be treated as COVID-19 deaths.
What will be considered a COVID-19 death?
If a COVID-19 case isn't resolved and the patient dies at home or the hospital, it will be considered a COVID-19 death. They say that deaths have to occur "within 30 days from the date of testing or from the date of being clinically determined as...COVID-19 case." If a patient is admitted beyond 30 days and dies, it would be considered a COVID-19 death.
There will be district-level grievance redressal mechanism: Guidelines
The guidelines have also put in place a grievance redressal mechanism as mandated by the SC. To address grievances, states or union territories will notify a district-level committee. The committee will consist of an Additional District Collector, the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), an Additional CMOH/Principal, or the Head of Department of Medicine of a medical college.
How would the grievance redressal mechanism work?
If the kin of the deceased is not satisfied with the cause of the death, they can approach this committee. The committee will examine the grievances and propose necessary remedial measures. It can also issue an amended "Official Document for COVID-19 Death" after verifying the facts. The guidelines state that grievance redressal shall be disposed of within 30 days of submission of the application/grievance.
What had the SC directed?
In June, the SC had made it clear that a death certificate issued for a COVID-19 fatality must clearly specify the cause of death as COVID-19. The SC had also directed the Centre to simplify guidelines for the issuance and correction of death certificates/official documents, stating the exact cause of death. It said this would enable dependents to get benefits from welfare schemes.