Leading epidemiologists have expressed concern at large numbers of COVID-positive people dying at home due to patients not coming forward for testing.
Associate professor Sanjaya Senanayake from the Australian National University said there had been multiple deaths from COVID-19 due to people developing severe symptoms at home, but not coming forward for testing or medical assistance earlier on.
The concern comes following new figures reported by the ABC’s 7.30 program that more than half of COVID deaths at home in NSW were not known to health authorities until post-mortem.
“If people came to hospital earlier it could be in fact a life-saving presentation,” Dr Senanayake said.
“If people did have COVID, the question is why didn’t they get tested, or something prevented them getting COVID treatment such as the fear and stigma of it.”
The ABC revealed how of the 29 people who died at home from coronavirus in NSW, only 13 were known to NSW Health. The remainder were only found to have had COVID-19 following their death.
NSW reported 12 more deaths on Monday, taking the toll from its Delta outbreak to 309. They were six men and six women, aged from their 60s to their 90s – state health authorities are no longer revealing how many people have died at home.
Dr Senanayake said while a delay in testing might account for the number of COVID deaths at home, other health issues might also be a factor.
“Another possibility is that we know COVID can cause complications outside the lungs itself, so this can affect the heart and cause an inflammation of the heart muscle and could lead to someone passing away,” he said.
“Similarly, we know that COVID is associated with clots, and if a patient were to get a big clot on the lung, that could lead to a fatal outcome if someone wasn’t hospitalised.”
The infectious diseases expert said health authorities regularly checked in with COVID patients who were at home.
He said the availability of treatment had expanded over the pandemic.
“In some jurisdictions they are sending out oxygen saturation probes so patients can measure their own oxygen levels and can send that data over to health authorities,” he said.
Of those who have died at home in NSW from COVID-19, ages have ranged from people in their 20s to 80s.