Updated: May 13, 2020 06:52 PM
Created: May 13, 2020 06:48 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico state senator is raising questions about how COVID-19 deaths are reported.
Sen. Pat Woods (R- District 7) sent a letter to the Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel Tuesday questioning how the state comes up with COVID-19 death numbers and if hospitals have anything to gain from reporting more deaths.
Sen. Woods said one of his constituents has a family member die from a heart attack, but that the cause of death was listed as COVID-19-related.
"Now my question is did they test him? Did they do an autopsy? How did they come up with the decision,” he said. “Now the CDC rule makes a statement that you can assume there to be a COVID related event"
The senator is concerned that some deaths are just assumed to be COVID-related, and that those people are not being tested.
"Mostly I would just like to know if, sure enough, they had the virus. That is my concern. Are we using this as a scare factor to prop up our stay at home policies?,” he said.
Sen. Woods said he is also concerned hospitals have financial motivation to report deaths from COVID-19 because they receive funding from the state and federal government.
“So it would be a little bit easier to check that little box there if you're getting a little extra pay for that,” he said.
A spokesperson for the state health department send KOB 4 a statement that read in part, “There has been no evidence reported to the Department of Health of hospitals misusing a reported cause of death for financial gain.
The spokesperson also said, “If COVID-19 is listed as an underlying cause of death on the death certificate, the death will be counted. A test result is not required. However, the vast majority of COVID-19 related deaths have come after the patient tested positive for the virus prior to death.”
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