Two separate lists of coronavirus patients held by authorities have a discrepancy of more than 200 cases between them.

Health officials have been trying to reconcile the two lists and their conflicting case numbers. 

Authorities discovered this week that the country’s centralised healthcare database did not tally with a separate list being kept by public health chief Charmaine Gauci. 

Gauci’s list, which is used to inform the public about daily COVID-19 updates, featured 241 additional patients on Friday, when compared to the centralised, audited list held by the central government.

While the government list is held on a specialised database known as the Patient Administration System, Gauci’s list is understood to take the form of a spreadsheet file shared among trusted colleagues.

The difference in numbers means that there may have been instances where publicly-announced coronavirus figures may not have reflected the true COVID-19 situation in the country. It also means that health officials may not have always had accurate information on all coronavirus patients, sources said.

Gauci’s list featured 241 additional patients on Friday

Officials who are working to reconcile the two lists have warned Gauci and Health Minister Chris Fearne of their concern that the spreadsheet system was not foolproof and could not be trusted with patient data.   

The main register and point of reference for medical professionals on patient data has always been the Patient Administration System, they say.   

“The PAS is a specialised system which is automated and fully audited. It is the basis of the national healthcare system when it comes to patient data and allows different departments to know what is happening. On the other hand, a simple spreadsheet can be prone to errors and is not as reliable,” Times of Malta’s source said. 

“It is crazy to use this method when we have a centralised and professional system in place,” they added. 

Malta registered 35 new COVID-19 patients on Sunday while 33 other patients had recovered from the virus, according to data published by the Health Ministry and based on Gauci’s list.

Replying to questions on Saturday, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry said that the spreadsheet compiled by Gauci was derived from a system set up by the World Health Organisation. It was shared among teams of experts working on containing the pandemic. 

Discrepancies between that data and the other information inputted into the centralised government system was because COVID-19 positive patients were not removed from the PAS until three months after they first tested positive, the spokesperson said.  

Questions on efforts to reconcile the data and how long it had been going on were not answered, however, sources said on Saturday afternoon health officials were contacted to speed up efforts to bring the two lists in sync.

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