Covid-19 patient who died had called hotline several times before visiting hospital

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By Fareeza Haniff

Weeks prior to his death, 38-year-old Jermaine Ifill had called the Coronavirus hotline in Guyana and informed them of his symptoms but no one ever visited or followed up his calls.

Ifill, according to his sister, Kmar Humphrey, called the hotline three times before he finally decided to visit the Georgetown Public Hospital on March 25.

He was admitted immediately in the male ward where he was told that he had pneumonia. He died on Tuesday, March 31 at around 09:30hrs in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after he tested positive for the disease on Saturday, March 28.

Humphrey, during a telephone interview with the News Room Wednesday said her brother was treated for pneumonia in early 2019 and always had a “coughing problem.”

“We know him with this cough and as soon as he laugh too hard, he would cough,” she said.

But Ifill, who was an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), started to feel sick and weak three weeks ago after he returned from the Suddie Hospital, Essequibo Coast in Region Two, where he trained staff in basic CPR and other first responder courses.

Ifill co-owned and managed the Reliance Health Care medical company.

Jermaine Ifill

“He end up starting feeling sick two weeks in. So he was calling the hotline numbers and called them three times and nobody ain’t come. They say they will come and call but nobody aint call,” his sister told the News Room.

She said Ifill even administered saline on himself while at home in the hope that the medical officials would have returned his calls.

The sister said Ifill was kept in the male ward where he was being treated for pneumonia; she said his breathing was unstable and he had complained of being given the wrong mask.

His six-month pregnant wife, who is a nurse at the GPHC, bought him a Non-rebreather mask which was helping.

According to the sister, she managed to convince the doctors for her brother to undergo a COVID-19 test which was done three days after he was admitted to the hospital.

When the results came back positive on March 28, he was immediately moved from the male ward into isolation.

“Since he go into isolation is all kinds of things they doing to my brother. Because he was messaging us asking us to get oxygen tank for him, asking us to get mask and all these things,” Humphrey told the News Room.

She said she spoke to her brother just hours before she received the telephone call that he died.

“I spoke to my brother yesterday [Tuesday] morning after 2 going onto 3, 4 am. (He was) begging me to get mask. He said he need the mask.”

Humphrey said she was on her way with an oxygen tank for her brother when she got the news that he died.

“You could tell me doctors up there, in that room, see he punishing and struggling they won’t find a better mask? Look how much hours. They say he passed away at 9:30am. They had couple hours, you will tell me that whole hospital ain’t got mask?”

Following Ifill’s death, a friend released on social media, a screenshot of Ifill wearing a baby mask complaining of being given the wrong mask. The sister confirmed this message.

She also debunked reports that the family breached security and hospital protocols.

“No one could have seen him. We were taking the stuff that he was asking for – guava juice, coconut water – to the Matron’s office. Nobody ain’t breach nothing. Nobody could have gone where he is; he (was) in isolation.”

Humphrey believes her brother did not receive adequate care; the family is now awaiting word from the hospital on when the body will be released and when Ifill’s personal belongings will be handed over to the family.

Ifill’s wife, the sister said, was placed in isolation on Sunday after she too tested positive for the new Coronavirus.

According to Humphrey, the wife, who is in her mid-20’s, is not showing any signs or symptoms and is said to be recovering.

Meanwhile, Ifill’s one-year-old son and mother have been quarantined at their Georgetown home but they have not been tested for the disease.

Humphrey said that the Ministry of Public Health has promised to visit and “spray out” the house but they have not done so.

Ifill became Guyana’s second COVID-19 death; the country is currently battling 19 cases as of March 31.

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