The body of the first Covid-19 victim in Bomet County was left lying in a mortuary for a week, exposing hundreds of unsuspecting residents and health workers to dangers of contracting the deadly virus.
It can now be revealed that the treatment, prior to the death and handling of the body of Stanley Ernest Kosgei, was handled like any other ordinary case at the Longisa County Referral Hospital.
In addition, County Police Commander Naomi Ichami has sharply differed with Governor Hillary Barchok on how the patient was transported from Nairobi to Bomet before being admitted to Longisa Hospital where he died shortly thereafter.
FREED FROM QUARANTINE
This comes as 13 relatives of the victim were released from Kaplong Girls High School in Sotik on Tuesday evening, exactly seven days after they were taken to the facility for quarantine.
Their release raises questions as to why they were set free before the 14 days mandatory quarantine period set by the Ministry of Health.
Still, the family members are insisting that Kosgei died of diabetes complications and not coronavirus. This sets them on a collision course with the county government's medical services and public health department.
"The patient was brought to the hospital on May 4 and passed on a day later. The family did not disclose that he had been brought from Nairobi as information captured during admission was that he had been brought directly from his Bomet home where he had been ailing," said Dr Joseph Sitonik, the Bomet County Medical Services and Public Health executive.
BROUGHT FROM NAIROBI
Dr Sitonik said five days after the patient passed away, information started filtering in from administrators, villagers and community health workers that the man had been brought from Nairobi and directly wheeled into Longisa Hospital for treatment.
"It was after receiving the information that, as a precautionary measure, we took samples from the body and sent them to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Kisumu on Monday, May 11. The results came out positive for coronavirus," said Dr Sitonik.
The results set in motion a series of activities, including securing of the body in line with Covid-19 protocols set by the Ministry of Health, and immediate quarantine of family members and health workers who came into contact with the patient.
The hospital and mortuary were also fumigated as the county took charge of the preservation and disposal of the body – all done a week too late.
"We took the necessary precautionary measures after getting full disclosure on the patient's travel history and treatment. There is no cause for alarm as we are confident we have the means to handle the case," said Dr Sitonik.
Samples from the man’s body were taken to the Kemri lab Kisumu on Tuesday, May 5, and results came out a week later, on Tuesday May 12.
According to Dr Sitonik, the tests were repeated to ascertain the results. He explained that it takes longer to conduct tests on a body that has been preserved.
“The process of testing samples from a patient is not the same as the one for a body which has been treated with preservatives,” said Dr Sitonik, adding that there was no delay in the release of the results.
Thirteen family members and 10 health workers were taken into controlled quarantine on May 12 as panic spread across the county following the case.
Three days later, another 15 family members and relatives were rounded up and taken to a quarantine centre. They are yet to be released as results of samples taken had not been released from Kemri by Wednesday morning.
"As a family, it is our position that we were mistreated by the county government in the handling of the case and we are demanding for justice now that the results have come out negative. It further vindicates our position that it was not a case of coronavirus but that of complications arising from diabetes," said Mrs Stella Kosgei, the man’s widow.
"We were hurriedly taken into quarantine and held for a week where we learnt that my husband had been buried in haste without regard to the Kipsigis community's traditions," she said.
Speaking to the Nation at her home shortly after being released from quarantine, Mrs Kosgei said that indeed, her husband had been brought from Nairobi and taken to Longisa Hospital – details of which she claimed were known to the hospital’s administration from the onset.
STORM OVER CASE
The case has kicked off a storm in the region, with residents demanding concrete answers from the county administration.
"It is unfortunate that hundreds of residents were exposed to the virus as a result of careless handling of the first coronavirus victim in the county. There are more questions than answers," said Mr Justus Maina.
Mr Maina said the manner in which the county government had treated the matter was wanting, with issues raised on the capacity to deal with cases if the numbers rise.
"Apart from doctors and family members, patients in hospital wards and their relatives were exposed to the victim and the virus in what portends a disaster for the county. We can only pray that there will not be a spike in the number of infections and deaths," said Mr Maina, a former deputy county commissioner.
There are fears that relatives of those whose bodies had been lying in the hospital’s mortuary for one week might also have been exposed as they went in to collect them for burial as no one knew one of the bodies was coronavirus infected.
After the case was reported, the mortuary at Longisa was partly closed with two attendants taken into quarantine.
Mrs Ichami told the Nation on Wednesday that contrary to what was in the mainstream and social media, the vehicle used to transport the patient from Nairobi did not belong to the police but was a hired taxi.
"The police officer followed due protocol and got a written permission from his station to bring his cousin (deceased) from Nairobi to Bomet for treatment," said Mrs Ichami.
"The officer did not use a police vehicle but a taxi registration KCT 497N to transport the patient to Bomet and he did not even go to his rural home but returned to Nairobi immediately on the material day," she added.
Mrs Ichami revealed that the patient did not have someone to take care of him in Nairobi when he fell sick.
Twice last week, Governor Barchok had insisted that the patient was transported in a police vehicle to Bomet.
"The patient was transported to Longisa from Nairobi using a police vehicle, driven by a security officer who is a family member, in the company of relatives. We are demanding that disciplinary action be taken against the officer," said Dr Barchok.
Documents seen by the Nation showed that the police officer (name withheld) was authorised to travel on May 4.
The patient, according to available documents, was referred to Longisa from Vostrum Clinic in Nairobi.