Kenya: Doctors Warned Over Colluding With Families to Fake Virus Test Results

The Ministry of Health has put on the spot doctors in private practice said to be colluding with families to doctor or hide Covid-19 test results.

It emerged Sunday that some families convince doctors to issue reports stating that their loved ones did not die from coronavirus-related complications in order to be allowed to hold regular burials and to prevent stigmatisation.

While giving the virus briefing in Kisumu County, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the revelations were from the medical fraternity, with doctors exposing their colleagues for malpractice.

"It has been brought to our attention that a few doctors are behaving very strangely. It is their colleagues who have flagged them," he said at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital.

GRAVE CONSEQUENCES

Terming the behaviour unethical and an act of deadly consequences, the CS noted that such doctors expose people to infection, exploit people's emotions and undermine efforts to protect families and communities.

"When a person succumbs to Covid -19, they do so at their most infectious state, shedding the virus at a very high level. Therefore, when buried as a regular fatality without protective measures in place, everyone close to them is exposed," Mr Kagwe said.

"As we have said several time before, we are all vulnerable to Covid-19. Not even doctors are safe so we should all be honest. I plead with you;if your relative succumbs to Covid-19, just be honest. There should be absolutely no reason for a doctor to issue a negative certificate for a positive death for the sake of a normal burial and to remove stigma."

Also of concern to the government is the continued practice of keeping bodies overnight in line with community cultures.

The practice, according to Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, is still prevalent in the Nyanza region.

STIGMATISATION

As of August 9, Kenya had 26,436 confirmed coronavirus cases, following the recording of 599 more cases after the testing of 4,420 samples in a day.

CS Kagwe also reported the highest number of single-day recoveries - 1,062 - which raised the total to 12,961. Two more deaths raised the death toll to 420.

As the number of cases continued to rise, the CS said stigmatisation remained the weakest link in the fight against the virus.

Mr Kagwe further appealed to health officials to initiate posthumous testing where there is a difference in opinion regarding the cause of death to accord families closure.

Some families have contested results indicating their loved ones succumbed to Covid-19 related complications and demanded postmortems but have not always been allowed to have the exams conducted.

"Please enable the bereaved and grieving families to have proper closure following the deaths of their loved ones by carrying out posthumous testing for Covid-19. This is the most prudent thing to do to ensure we protect the public and families," the CS said.

PROTECTIVE GEAR

On personal protective equipment, the CS urged counties to ensure what is provided to healthcare workers meets international standards as stipulated by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).

He said the health function is devolved so governors must ensure medics are protected by procuring and issuing the right protective gear at all times.

He also urged medics to avoid resorting to strikes and embrace dialogue so as not to ground operations in public facilities as the country fights the pandemic.

"Those are our soldiers on the ground so they deserve the best we can offer," he said, noting that Kebs spelt out the standards for local manufacture and exportation of PPEs.

Kebs recently said that some of the PPEs supplied to medics were substandard.

CS Kagwe said he had personally confirmed that some face masks imported from China were substandard. They were examined by Kebs, he said, adding their importation was consequently stopped.

"Kenyan products are good enough or even better than the ones from elsewhere. We have to ensure what is being taken to doctors is what is what they have approved. Even after Kebs' approvals, I insist that doctors look at the PPEs before we give them out because we cannot afford to experiment when it comes to the welfare of our doctors," he said.

RESEARCH

The CS also took a swipe at international institutions said to be riding on Kenya's brains in research partnerships, without giving it credit, yet this is necessary in case discoveries reach the trading level.

"We must always remember that the findings in our labs at Kemri and other facilities in our nation must be recognised. We cannot carry out research in Kenya and export data, vaccines or medicine [yet miss out on attribution] just because the research was funded by someone else," he said.

"We urge those we cooperate with to ensure the cooperation is meaningful through mutual recognition, ownership and sale."

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