Mystery Shrouds Zim’s Second COVID-19 Death…Doctors Want Urgent Probe Into Matter

CIRCUMSTANCES leading to the demise of Zimbabwe’s 11th COVID-19 case has opened a can of worms, further exposing  the fissures and  the country’s lack of preparedness in dealing with the raging pandemic which has infected  more than a million people globally and claimed 70 000 lives.

By Michael Gwarisa

Zimbabwe yesterday recorded its 11th case of COVID-19 which also turned out to be the country’s latest fatality from the virus, this time a 79 year old Bulawayo man who succumbed to symptoms of the virus over the weekend. The latest death brings to two the total number of fatalities the country has recorded since commencing tests. The first death was that of broadcaster, Zororo Makamba who died a two dasy after admission at Wilkins hospital in Harare.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) daily COVID-19 updates, the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory (NMRL) tested 21 samples yesterday and one of these tested positive for COVID-19 bringing to 11 the number of confirmed cases reported to date. However, this 11th case passed away on Saturday, April 4 2020.

The 11th case was a 79 year old male resident of Bulawayo who initially presented to the General Practitioner on the 23rd of March 2020 with a history of cough, sore throatand fever. When he did not improve on oral antibiotic treatment, he presented to a local hospital on Thursday, April 2 2020, where he was admitted.

“At the time of admission, he had presented with cough, difficulty in breathing, sore throat and fever but no reported history of travel outside Zimbabwe. He however, indicated that he had been to a tourist resort in Hwange from 14 to 16 March 2020. He was therefore admitted for clinical management as a case of bacterial Pneumonia with an underlying comorbidity,” said the update.

They added that his condition deteriorated during the evening of the day of admission and he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for critical care and management in isolation under a specialist physician.

“The local COVID-19 Rapid Response Team was called in and samples were sent to the NMRL for COVID-19 testing. Whilst waiting for the COVID-19 test results, he received medical treatment as a clinical case of COVID-19.

“On Saturday 4 March, his condition continued to deteriorate despite management in ICU until he deceased. Contact tracing for the above case is in progress and the ministry continues to be on high alert to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, local doctors and civil society called for an urgent probe into the handling of the 11th case as well as the death which they believe falls short of the expected World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said there is need to probe the circumstances leading to the death of patient number 11 which they believe exposes the lack of preparedness of the local health sector to deal with severe COVID-19 cases.

“Equally, we are extremely worried by the possible exposure of health workers both in private and public facilities who are working without Protective Personal Equipment (PPE). We urge the health authorities to account for the following grey areas in the management of this case.

“It took five days (from 2nd April to 7th April) to get the result of the COVID-19 test, a period which is rather too long. The absence of diagnostic facilities for COVID-19 brings to question the state of preparedness of centers outside Harare. What is the government doing to improve the turnaround time for tests,” said ZADHR.

They added that the fact that the patient was being treated at a local hospital further exposes failure to manage and identify potential risk cases, a scenario which could expose more citizens especially health workers to the pandemic.

“The patient was treated at a local hospital. In this an infectious diseases hospital or a COVID-19 designated facility? Previously, the minister of health has assured the nation the country is ready to deal with COVID-19 cases countrywide. The lack of clarity arouses lots of questions.

“The inability to diagnose on time is clear sign that health professionals attending the deceased were exposed as they lack essential protective equipment. Does, this case reflect the lack of knowledge on the case definition for suspected cases of COVID-19? The patient was first seen on 23 March and was not advised to self-quarantine, get tested for COVID-19, and managed as a suspected case. What is the state of preparedness in centers outside Harare?”







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