ID and cause of death verification among reasons for delayed announcement

Three more delayed COVID-19 death announcements were made overnight, a reporting system that cannot be avoided, Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete told the Fijian Parliament, because of the need to verify a person’s identity and medical history to determine their COVID-19 death classification – whether death from COVID or death with COVID.

Dr Waqainabete was responding to questions from SODELPA MP Litia Qionibaravi relating to the delay death announcements and the guideline that the ministry uses when classifying deaths of COVID-19 positive patients.

The three fatalities announced last night were recorded on 15-16 July, all from the central division involving unvaccinated individuals aged between 59 and 66 years who either died at home or on their way to hospital. Over the last six days there have been three such announcements, totaling 26 deaths, that occurred between 8 July and 11 August, and all in the central division. Twenty-three (23) of them either died at home or died on their way to hospital. Twenty-four(24) of them were unvaccinated and two partially vaccinated.

Dr Waqainabete said the delay stems from a number of issues, one of which is determining whether or not a deceased person has COVID, in particular unknown cases that either died at home or on their way hospital, then there are cases who are know COVID patients, but have pre-existing illnesses that could also cause their deaths.

“This team of specialists needed to sit down and go through the folders. Sometimes the folders of the X ray results for example were not [on] hand, sometimes some of our family members actually that passed on passed away in this institution while the majority of their records may be in a different institution. That had to be brought out to be able to be ascertained,” Dr Waqainabete said.

“So they then sit down with a medical history. They discuss the history, and then they make the decision whether the person died from COVID or died with COVID. And as you aware, there may be some who have myocardial infection or they had high blood pressure, those who had eeschema heart disease or stroke in the diaphragm this was important to ascertain so that’s why our classification system in place, but this is in keeping with what WHO had put out in his guidance that when we need to ensure that we document those who died with COVID and those who died from COVID.”

Health personnel also had to contend with high daily deaths at the height of the infection, verification for which took longer.

“One thing is very clear is that during that period where we had a high number of cases within our community and also the death numbers were high… and be able to ascertain whether somebody died from COVID or died with COVID was not able to actually do it on a day to day basis of everyone who passed on during the day. So that’s why, in some instances when there was not enough information to him. We had to wait until all that information was to hand.

“We had WHO experts working with our team. And they were also ensuring that we met all the prerequisites that was in place to classify whether somebody died from COVID or died with COVID. We utilise the WHO guideline, there is actually a guidance document. It’s called the International guideline for certification and classification of COVID-19 deaths. What usually happens is every person who passes away, when they’re tested that comes out is positive, for those that we do not know yet there are positive, they are then discussed. This is discussed between the physicians, the doctors, the specialists from the certain areas including bringing up the medical records.

“And again, bringing to the fore the importance of actually making sure that we validate names, because in some instances, they have been members of a public, our families that have been waiting for a few days until the certification has been carried through, because we’re waiting for the folders to be ascertained that this is exactly the person that had passed away.”

As of 8am yesterday, the number of people who have died with COVID-19 stood at 419 and those who died from COVID, 579 since March 2020 or 577 since April this year.

There were also 72 new coronavirus infections and no new COVID-caused death over the same reporting period.

There have also been 32 new recoveries, which means that there are now 12,982 active cases in Fiji. There have been 50,200 cases during the outbreak that started in April 2021. We have recorded a total of 50,270 cases in Fiji since the first case was reported in March 2020, with 36,290 recoveries.

Photo: Fiji Parliament

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