Death statistics released by the Department of Health last week that showed a jump of 182,654 deaths in a single year are ‘implausible’.
This is according to the Medical Research Council (MRC), which usually supplies government with mortality figures.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told a press briefing last week that, in 2007, the total number of deaths from all causes was 573,408 but by the end of 2008, this figure had jumped to 756,062.
This increase in deaths in a single year is the equivalent of everyone in an area bigger than the size of Randfontein (Gauteng) or all the citizens of George and Plettenberg Bay combined (W Cape) dying in a single year, in addition to the usual deaths.
However, it is appears that the Minister got his figures from the Department of Home Affairs. The MRC says it does not yet have the 2008 mortality figures and Statistics SA only released the 2007 mortality statistics two weeks ago.
The Stats SA death rate for 2007 was 601,133 ‘ almost 30,000 higher than the 2007 figures quoted by the health minister.
In addition, Stats SA noted that there was slight decline of 1,8% in deaths between 2007 and 2006 when 612 462 people died. Some interpreted this as a modest indication that government’s antiretroviral treatment programme was working.
Thus, the Minister’s report last week of the massive jump in deaths ‘ which he attributed to AIDS ‘ caused disbelief among statisticians and researchers who track the mortality rate.
The MRC’s Dr Debbie Bradshaw has written to the acting Director-General of Health, Dr Kammy Chetty, to express her concern about the figure.
Health Department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said officials were looking into the figure and ‘we will correct it if necessary in due course’.
What is not in dispute, however, is the fact that the death rate of South Africans has more than doubled in the past decade, with the greatest increases occuring in adult women in their late twenties and early thirties and men in their late thirties ‘ a clear indication of the impact of AIDS. ‘ Health-e News Service.