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How COVID-19 patient’s travail raises testing integrity

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Omamuzo

On April 27, Omamuzo Ijala was declared the fifth coronavirus case in Delta State, bringing the number to eight. She was the first female to test positive for COVID-19 in the state.

The Delta State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, who made the announcement, though did not mention names, however, said she was in stable condition and receiving treatment at the COVID-19 isolation centre in Warri.

But the circumstances in which Omamuzo was declared coronavirus positive was enmeshed in controversy, as the lady, a fashion designer and former teacher, vehemently rejected the result. In fact, when officials of the COVID-19 team visited her home to pick her, all hell was almost let loose, but for her mother who intervened and convinced her to follow the team.

Interestingly, two days ago, the lady, who said she only had pneumonia, was alleged to have also infected two medical workers in the state that equally tested positive for coronavirus.

Omamuzo’s ordeal began at the Otor-Udu General Hospital, where she had gone for treatment of a persistent cough, which had defied treatment, and fever. At the hospital, she was asked to go for an x-ray and was diagnosed with pneumonia, but she was referred to the Warri General Hospital, where they advised she would get better medical attention.

At the hospital, the moment Omamuzo coughed, the medical workers, who suspected she could be COVID-19 positive, immediately absconded and left her to be on her own. She got fed up and went home with a friend, who had assisted her to the hospital.

Few days after, however, a group of medical officers with some security personnel in plain clothes was at her home to pick her up on the ground that she was coronavirus positive.

Omamuzo requested to see the test result as the proof of their claim, but they could not show her any, instead threatened that if she failed to come with them, she would face the wrath of the state government.

After much argument, her mother intervened and asked her to go with the medical officers.

At Warri Central Hospital where she was held in insolation, she was allegedly abandoned, as all the medical workers were afraid to come close to her, even her food was dropped at the entrance for her to collect, yet no test result was shown to her as proof she had the virus.

A leaked audio telephone conversation of Omamuzo further underlined the confusion marring the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Delta State and a lot of states in the country.

Ironically, since last Thursday when the audio message of Omamuzo went viral, no official of the Delta State government has deemed it necessary to prove her claims wrong. Apart from the Chief Medical Director of the Warri General Hospital, Dr. Paul Okubor, who confirmed her COVID-19 status, nothing else has been said till date, which has enraged Omamuzo, because now he has been stigmatised and embarrassed in the social media.

In the leaked audiotape, Omamuzo said: “I left my house to visit a friend. I have strong cough and when the cough was becoming too much, my friend suggested that we went to Oto-Udu General Hospital. When we got there, a nurse looked at me and said I should go for x-ray. The result stated that I had pneumonia, which was true, because I had pneumonia in 2004, August precisely. After getting the x-ray results, I was referred to Warri General Hospital with the assurance that I would be well taken care of there.

“When I got to Warri Central Hospital, I coughed and when the doctors heard me cough, they all ran away. I was confused. There was one nurse among them, who started shouting that I couldn’t stay there. In the midst of the shouting, my friend — who the news report said was my boyfriend — went to one of the doctors and asked what was actually happening, but the doctor could not say anything. In fact, they didn’t know what drugs to administer to me. At the end of the day, I called one of the doctors and asked what was the medication for a strong cough? He couldn’t answer; he was just looking at me. They didn’t even put me on bed. After everything, the doctor then said I should be kept in one of their waiting rooms. When I didn’t get any attention, I went home.

“When I got to my house, the doctor called me that I should please come back and I told them that I was not going to come back after I had been treated like a refugee the previous day. But the doctor continued with his plea, urging me to come back so that I can be attended to.

“When I got there, I was tossed up and down. I waited till 7:00pm on Saturday evening before a doctor came to me and was even talking to me from a distance. He didn’t want to come close. He kept saying that I had coronavirus. After everything, the man carried out some test on me and asked me to go. I asked him when I was going to get my result and he said they would put a call across to me. I said okay and went home.

“On Tuesday, I was in my house when someone said some medical personnel were downstairs looking for me. I told them to come upstairs because I was feeling too weak to walk. But my mum persuaded me to go downstairs and meet them. I asked them what the problem was and they said my result showed I was coronavirus positive. I told them that I wanted to see the result, which they said I would be shown later, but that I should follow them to Central Hospital. I said I wasn’t going. I was told if I didn’t follow, I would be answerable to government. After much persuasion from my mum, they brought an ambulance and took me to General Hospital. I told them to show me my result, which was not done until I started hearing that my name had been publicised as having coronavirus. Till this moment, doctors have not shown me the result stating that I was coronavirus positive.

“Yesterday, they brought me a cup of tea that had a lot of sugar. I told them that I couldn’t take the tea. I waited till afternoon for my lunch. When it was 1:00pm, I went to them and requested for my lunch and was asked what I wanted to eat. I told them I would prefer rice and plantain. I waited till 6:00pm yet there was no food for me. When I was not getting any food, I put a call across to my mum. When my mum came and they saw that she was creating scene, that was when they dropped my food at the bathroom entrance and asked me to get the food from there,” she said.

“Till this very moment, I have not seen my result. I want Okowa himself to come to my aid. I don’t have coronavirus. I want to be out of this place, I’m tired of staying in this isolation centre. I am not a coronavirus patient, I’m not sick of coronavirus.

“I heard that the Ughelli North Council chairman came to see me, that is a big lie. No chairman came to see me. Nobody came to see me. So, for the Ughelli North chairman to say that he came to see me is a big lie.

“I don’t have any runny nose, neither do I have runny tummy. The only thing I have is cough. And the drugs I’m taking have subsided the cough; I only cough once in a while. I’m not having difficulty in breathing. I even stayed under the air conditioner yesterday.

“I want Governor Okowa to come and see me, he is a medical personnel. He should come and see and confirm that I don’t have coronavirus. I want to leave this place, I want to go home. I don’t have coronavirus,” Omamuzo said.

However, the Chief Medical Director of Warri Central Hospital, Okubor, at the weekend, debunked allegations that the female CIVID-19 patient was maltreated.

Okubor said the lady was angry over the manner her name went viral on the social media. He also said the patient was shown the result of the test indicating that she was positive.

Okubor equally denied media reports that the isolation centre was ill equipped to handle and treat coronavirus cases.

“Warri Treatment Centre is one of the best you can find anywhere and has all the necessary facilities, including ventilators.

“Any patient who tests positive, the result is communicated to him or her, likewise, those who tested negative. So, it is not correct that she has not seen her result.

“I am sure that you know that it’s not possible to take somebody that tested negative to be taken to treatment or isolation centre. What does government stand to gain?

“The treatment centre is basically for those who tested positive,” Okubor said in a phone interview on Friday.

“I think she is little bit upset about the happenings on social media but from our own end, we are doing our very best to cater for her in terms of treatment and feeding. We are doing everything to make her comfortable,” Okubor said.

Before Omamuzo’s case, the first alleged casualty of Covid-19 in Delta State, a former manager of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), also drew a lot of controversy. The deceased family shortly before he was buried, said their father died of diabetes, which he had been treating for a long time before he passed away.

About three weeks ago, when Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, first announced Delta’s index case, the social media reported that a state House of Assembly member representing Ughelli North constituency 2, who recently returned from a foreign trip, tested positive for coronavirus.

The lawmaker, Prince Eric Oharisi, immediately denied this. He said he was shocked that the social media alleged he tested positive to the virus. He said was not hospitalized neither was he sick, and urged the public to disregard the fake news.

“I travelled last year and I returned January 28 this year. If anyone is having symptoms of COVID-19, it should be after 14 days. I attended sittings for over two weeks before issue of Coronavirus came up. I don’t just know where this is coming from.

“As a lawmaker, I have complied with the directive of the Delta State Government to the stay-at-home. I’m still in my home in Asaba, I have not visited Warri or anywhere,” Oharisi said.

Blessing Ekiejare, who claimed to be a former student of Omamuzo, accused the Delta State COVID-19 officials of violating her fundamental human rights, adding that there was no authentic result to prove she was positive, stressing that it is the right of a patient to know the diagnosis for which he or she is being treated, and urged government to come to her aid.

A medical Doctor, Dr. Ovie Ughwanogho, who shared his view on the Covid-19 patient’s issue, said it is the right of a patient to know the diagnosis for which he/she is being treated.

He said, “if a patient is in doubt of the diagnosis, show the result to him/her. If still in doubt after seeing the result, a second test should be done immediately with proper collection of samples and protection of the chain of custody of the sample to another laboratory. Chain of custody of result back to the patient should also be protected.

“In situation where a patient’s name has been released to the public and the patient is contesting the validity of the test result, this is the way to resolve it and win not only her confidence but that of the public.”


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