KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) previously counted deaths “with Covid-19”, irrespective of the actual cause of death, as part of the official coronavirus death toll.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said prior to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline for the classification of Covid-19 deaths, local health authorities would consider all deaths with Covid-19 as a coronavirus fatality.
“Yeah. Initially, during the second wave, anyone who died and [was] positive from Covid-19, we considered them as Covid-19 cases. For example, [if] they hang themselves or [if it is a] motor vehicle accident, but they are positive, so we consider them positive.
“Until WHO came up with the guidelines [on] how to classify deaths. So we follow the WHO guidelines, in terms of the cause of death. If the cause of death is due to hanging, for example, or drowning or other things, then although it (the case) is still positive, we do not classify their cause of death because of Covid-19.
“So obviously die from hanging, very clear-cut. So those days, we admit, we consider them as Covid-19 positive, as well, in our census. But now, we exclude that,” Dr Noor Hisham told the health, science and innovation special select parliament committee in a meeting on July 23.
Transcripts of the meeting were published in the special committee’s “Transitioning from Pandemic to Endemic Covid-19 Safely and Sustainably” report tabled in Parliament on November 1.
In the event that a patient died of multi-organ failure, Dr Noor Hisham said it becomes slightly complicated as Covid-19 can also result in complications that cause death.
“So if multi-organ failure, due to what? What is the cause of death? So we try to, say for example, they are admitted to hospital with positive and multi-organ failure because of Covid-19, we know, then we classify as Covid-19.
“But if, say for example, they got a heart attack, is it Covid-19 or not? So it is difficult because Covid-19 can also cause blood clots and then that also can result to heart attack, indirectly. So the thing is that, we classify direct, very clear. You know, sometimes it is not the cause of death but indirect measurements, so that is where the decision has to be made lah,” he said.
Dr Christopher Lee, the formal advisor for infectious diseases in MOH, said last May that deaths caused by Covid-19 exceeded reported figures.
He pointed out that some patients died after recovery from acute Covid-19 illness due to complications affecting their pulmonary and central nervous systems.
To date, 29,769 Covid-19 deaths have been officially reported. Malaysia’s coronavirus mortality per capita is the highest in the region. As of November 15, Malaysia recorded about 907 deaths per million people. Indonesia came in second highest at 520 fatalities per million population, 74 per cent lower than Malaysia.