A section of medical staff from Mwatate Sub-County Hospital in Taita-Taveta County has been quarantined after handling a Malaria patient who later tested positive for COVID-19.
Sources disclosed that the medics and support staff had interacted with the male patient on Monday last week.
The patient had gone to the facility seeking medical help after having developed fever and flu-like symptoms.
Initial laboratory tests carried at the facility showed he was suffering from Malaria and was admitted in the general ward.
However, the samples that were taken for a COVID-19 test at Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) laboratory in Kilifi came back positive causing panic across the facility and triggering a frantic contact-tracing operation.
Speaking to KNA on Friday, County Executive Committee Member for Health John Mwakima confirmed that 11 workers in the hospital had been quarantined for 14-days as per the Ministry of Health guidelines on exposure procedures.
“Some of our staff will be placed under the mandatory 14-day quarantine before they are released following that exposure,” he said.
He said the county was sparing no efforts to ensure all frontline workers had adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to keep them safe from infections while handling patients across all health facilities.
He explained that such risks were regrettable but probable because there were no real-time tests done to patients with COVID-19 symptoms. The county hospitals rely on Kemri lab at Kilifi for testing.
Mwakima said the dilemma confronting the medics was on whether to admit a patient as they waited for results or only admit after receiving the results.
However, medical union officials said there was negligence on the part of the hospital management while admitting the patient.
The officials state that the man should have been placed in an isolation ward and treated far away from others until his test results came back.
Reuben Matolo, Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) General Secretary in the county, said the health department failed to strictly conform to the Ministry of Health protocols and thereby exposing medics and patients to the risk of contracting the virus.
He noted that the patient should have been isolated and treated for the initial diagnosis of Malaria while waiting for his COVID-19 results.
Reports say that the patient’s samples were taken on Wednesday and the results for COVID-19 came back on Saturday, three days after he had already been discharged from the hospital.
Afterwards, he was quickly traced to his home and ferried to an isolation facility in Taveta sub-county.
Matolo said approximately 23 people who had come into contact with the patient should be in quarantine. They include nurses and support staff and even patients. The official urged the health department to act fast to trace and isolate everyone who interacted with the patient.
Already, some samples for the staff have tested negative raising hopes that they might not have contracted the virus. However, conclusive tests will only come after the 14-days after which the medics will be allowed to resume work.
“They will have to wait for the final test after the 14-days due to the possibility of getting false positives,” he said.
Matolo asked the county to provide proper PPEs to all medical staff who were handling patients in view of the surging numbers of COVID-19 cases.
He said even staff manning general wards needed protection as those in isolation units. He further called for enhanced screening of patients stating that relying on temperature was inadequate.
“This shows there is a need for more stringent tests to be done as taking temperature is not a conclusive way of telling whether one has coronavirus or not,” he said.