A HARARE family has opened up over how the remains of their brother-in-law were allegedly wheeled out and made to ‘sleep’ outside after he died at a private hospital two weeks into the lockdown.
The ordeal took place between Sunday and Monday this week.
Ordered by a lady boss, staff at the hospital allegedly covered the late Paul’s body in a blanket and red bin bags before pushing his wheelchair outside near the car park area where the body spent the night after suspecting him of being a Covid-19 patient.
Speaking about the horrible experience, Paul’s brother in law Tapiwa, expressed shock at the hospital’s lack of preparedness for Covid-19 eventualities over two weeks after the lockdown period began.
He was also appalled by the staff’s fear of the woman only identified as Anna.
Paul, a 77-year-old white man, died barely 30 minutes after arrival at the private hospital and within 10 minutes of being attended to.
He had been in the country since February 24 when he arrived from the UK and had been quarantined for more than five weeks when he was taken to the hospital. The family was quite sure what he had was just pneumonia.
“I called (private hospital) and told them I have someone with hydrostatic pneumonia – because he has been diagnosed that day by his doctor. The condition is caused by being in one position for too long. They said they can treat such a patient but needed US$200 for protective clothing.
“We took him there quite sure he didn’t have Covid-19 because we had done everything to protect him as he had other conditions. My whole family has been isolated since March and we were quite sure.
“So we got there and we were all sprayed down, paid the US$200 and that was around 7:30pm. We waited while they were dressing for about 20 minutes. They then came and took him to the resuscitation area but he died within 10 minutes, before he had been admitted or anything.
“There was a very nice nurse who we then asked what the next procedures were. She advised that we call a funeral parlour and also Borrowdale Police,” said Tapiwa.
They then went to Borrowdale Police where they were to meet people from a funeral parlour, leaving the body still in the wheel chair.
That, according to Tapiwa, is when the horror show started.
“We asked for the police to come but they said there is a procedure and professionally helped us to contact the Covid-19 people. They were very responsive but could only recommend talking to City health personnel who i think said somebody would come, I’m not sure cause I did not make that call.
“As all these procedures were happening I decided to go back to (private hospital) and to my surprise Paul was still sitting in his wheel chair. I asked them ‘can you not lay him down so rigor mortis doesn’t set in. Because in a seated position it may eventually cause problems – which it did. When he was finally put in a coffin we couldn’t close it cause of rigor mortis and his head stuck out.
“I didn’t make a lot of it until this receptionist came and she was in so much fear, almost in tears. She said the body had to go. I asked to see the doctor and she said the body had to go. I also noticed other doctors leaving. I tried to explain that we also wanted the body removed and we were waiting to patiently follow procedures.”
Tapiwa said he went back to the police station to see if there was progress and that is when Anna called.
“She didn’t even introduce herself, she just said what is happening with the body, it has to go. I told her I have just told your people the challenge that we are facing and she said give me the police. I told her to call the police herself if she wanted to speak to them but she decided to come in person.
“Ask the police how she was when she came. Ask Officer Mabhena. She was basically threatening them saying you are causing problems which you will not be able to handle. The police were clear that they were waiting to hear the way forward on how to proceed.
“I asked her why the police was educating her on the Covid-19 procedures when she is the health expert? I asked why she was ignorant of the procedures and she started saying you don’t call me ignorant.
“She called the Covid-19 number, 2019 and was told that they were just a call centre. So she left. My sister (wife to the deceased) was with the body.
“I left the police and dashed home to get some warm clothes and that is when my sister called saying she had been kicked out into the car park area, with Paul’s body covered in disposable bags , one in the head and another on his feet. Funny thing is they were also forbidding her from going home. So this is midnight and she has a little sleeveless summer dress out in the cold.
“When I got there I did not realise Paul’s remains had been wheeled out. But when my sister was getting into the car that receptionist and later the nurse who had attended to Paul ran to us in tears begging us not to leave as they would be fired.
“The nurse actually said she had been told she is fired and wailed begging me not to leave. I told her my sister is leaving but I’m sleeping there.”
Tapiwa said he slept in the car because he could not leave the body in a wheelchair. He thought the body was still inside the premises and he couldn’t leave it like that. Little did he know that Paul’s remains had been wheeled outside.
“Meanwhile, the Anna lady was shouting saying don’t leave. She didn’t want us in the hospital and she didn’t want us to leave as well.”
The next morning the family then bought PPE for police and City of Harare officials came well dressed and sprayed.
“That is when I realized Paul had slept outside. He was just by the verandah area,” said Tapiwa.
“Why would you put a body outside? Even if he had Covid, which he did not, why? What is so frustrating and annoying is that they put him there where anyone could access him covered by a blanket and bin bags! This hospital is out of control! Even when City of Harare officials came (very professional by the way), they assumed he had died outside and only sprayed around the area. Noone told them he had been inside from 8pm till midnight and the inside was not sprayed.
“The other thing i observed throughout the ordeal was that the staff and those involved in the entire process were so scared. It showed they had zero training, zero knowhow on how to handle a suspected Covid-19 case. The hospital staff had no protocol to employ, no reassurance on how to handle it.
“While efforts are being made to fight coronavirus, there clearly is a need for people within the entire system to get proper training. If this is not addressed there will be a disaster.
“There was suspicion of Covid-19 with our in-law but in the end we were not even tested. As a family we did not suspect it was Covid-19 but once the system suspected it was, then the matter was now beyond our control.
“The system was now in charge and as such, I felt they had to be as thorough as possible and not let us go without any tests. I seriously hope this is addressed as a matter of urgency.”