Another family claims COVID-19 victim was infected at Hospital

- GPHC says risk always exists for cross-contamination

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By Bibi Khatoon

The family of 73-year-old James Downer, who died from COVID-19 on August 27, believes he was infected at the transition ward at the Georgetown Public Hospital.

James Downer Junior told the News Room that his father was taken to the Diamond Hospital for a low blood count on August 17 – a condition he developed as a result of an accident in 2019.

However, since he travelled from the North West District in Region One where several cases were reported, he was treated as a suspected COVID-19 patient and was subsequently transported to the GPHC.

“They started to treat him as a COVID-19 patient and also transported him to the GPHC by an ambulance which is most obviously used to transport COVID patients only,” Junior told the News Room.

Junior, 29, told the News Room during a telephone interview that his father was placed in the transition ward with others who later tested positive for the disease and he believes this is where he was infected.

“He was isolated for 24 hours with three patients there at the GPHC who had visible signs and symptoms of COVID-19. He was swabbed the following day which was approximately 24 hours after he was isolated with the others,” Junior said.

During this time, they were not allowed to visit him.

Junior said that three days later, the family received a call that his father tested positive for the disease and was a patient in the ICU.

The 73-year-old father of nine was recorded as the country’s 33rd COVID-19 death.

Junior said his family found it strange when they received the call about his death as they were told a week before that he was taking his medication and his condition was improving.

“The Thursday we called and talk to him where he complained of being treated unwell and the Nurse or Doctor was taking medication and he was saying ‘this thing is burning him.’ He said to call back in half-hour but we never got onto him until we received a call the Friday morning that he died,” Junior said.

The man’s daughter and her husband who took care of him before he was hospitalized were also swabbed on August 19 but are still awaiting their test results.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Director of Medical & Professional Services, Dr Fawcett Jeffrey admitted that cross-contamination occurs in the transition ward of the public hospital.

“A transition unit is a unit that may have Mr X lying, Mr Y lying here and I do not know the status of either until I get a report…when we know their status, we move them to a place which is safer but always, in a transition unit anywhere in the world, there is always a risk and that risk we cannot know.”

Dr Jeffrey said the only way to avoid cross-contamination is to ensure healthcare professionals take precautions but there are some patients who refuse to wear a face mask in the Unit.

“It’s a whole range of things that can create cross-contamination but I would say that at no point has there been any deliberate attempt to facilitate cross-contamination,” Dr Jeffrey said.

He told the media that due to the back log in test results, the ward was extended to prepare for persons who are forced to stay longer there as they await their results ahead of treatment.

So far, Guyana has recorded 49 COVID-19 deaths.

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