Family demands probe after Covid patient suddenly dies after doctors claimed she was improving

Dead: Devika Wong
Dead: Devika Wong

…questions why Hospital decreased oxygen on Covid patient with “severely damaged lungs”

By: Amar Persaud

The Wong family is demanding a full-blown investigation into the operations of the Infectious Disease Hospital (Ocean View facility) at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara (ECD) after a relative suddenly died even after doctors were initially claiming that her condition was improving.

Devika Wong, 47, tested positive for the novel coronavirus on August 22 and was immediately hospitalised in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until her demise on September 7. Wong, who was a mother of five children, was experiencing a fever, headache, and shortness of breath.

A relative who spoke to this publication under the condition of anonymity explained that employees of the medical institution would contact the family once a day to provide updates on the woman’s condition.

About two weeks into her period of hospitalisation, the family said the medical professionals advised that Wong’s condition was improving and that doctors were considering taking her off the ventilator.

According to the relative, Wong was eventually placed on an oxygen trial using a regular ‘oxygen mask’.

INews understands that the oxygen mask trial involved taking the patient off the ventilator and placing her on an oxygen mask for a period of time, and then returning her to the ventilator. At this time, the woman’s oxygen level was at 90 – which is considered normal. In fact, on September 5, the family was told that the woman’s condition was stable but the following day, her oxygen level suddenly dropped to 60.

On September 7, doctors decided to intubate the woman but she died during the process. Based on information the family received from the hospital, Wong’s lungs were “severely damaged”.

The Infectious Disease Hospital

The family is now distraught and left searching for answers, especially after initially being told that the woman’s condition was improving.

“They keep lying, saying that my mother’s getting better, but basically she wasn’t. How could you tell me she has severe lung damages the morning of the death and prior to that you were doing regular oxygen trial with the face mask on her, which in they took her of the ventilator and did that trial,” the daughter questioned.

“They call me and tell me that my mom’s doing fairly well as they decrease the amount of oxygen she consumes so, hopefully she will be transferred from the ICU into the COVID ward, which that was very good news. And I think that was ridiculous because if you know a patient’s lungs are severely damaged, why the hell would you decrease their oxygen consumption and do regular mask trial? That’s ridiculous,” the daughter contended.

Wong, who was unvaccinated, suffered from hypertension and diabetes.

When contacted, Communications Manager of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) Chelauna Providence explained that from time to time, the institution would encounter patients who suddenly crash and die even after consecutive days of showing signs of improvement.

“What I can say is that we’ve seen time and time again with Covid, that a patient condition can elevate quickly, it’s nothing new. We’ve seen what is happening with Covid positive patients especially those who are admitted for ICU care, the patient can be looking good one minute and within a few minutes their condition can escalate,” Providence explained, noting that she does not have the specific details about Wong’s case.

Providence noted that if the family needs answers, they can formally lodge a complaint with the GPHC.

“The only way we do investigations is if the family makes formal complaint and there is a mechanism for that (the complaints office at GPHC). Once they make a complaint and it is factualised and will be in investigated,” the GPHC spokesperson said.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony

Just a few days ago, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony explained that there is no shortage of oxygen at the Covid facilities across the country.

“So far, we haven’t had an issue with oxygen because we have been working with the oxygen company to make sure that we have adequate supplies of oxygen,” the Health Minister had explained, adding that more measures are being put in place to increase the oxygen capacity of the Infectious Disease Hospital.

“Previously we were utilising a 1000-pound cylinders of oxygen and we’ve had several of them. We have now put in a bulk tank that was specially designed and brought into the country to cater for such needs so that tank right now we replenish it every 24 hours and so that is providing us right now with the types of oxygen supply that we need,” Dr Anthony had noted.

In fact, he had noted that a consultant from PAHO/WHO, who was in the country, had assisted the Health Ministry in analysing oxygen needs in all the regional hospitals across the country.

“Based on those recommendations, those that were falling short in terms of how many oxygen tanks and so they should have, we have been able to start those corrective measures so, we have been very proactive in how we’ve been addressing oxygen and making sure that we have adequate supplies,” Dr Anthony said.

Meanwhile, Wong’s 68-year-old mother, Bibi Persaud also died as a result of the novel coronavirus on August 31. Persaud was also unvaccinated and she suffered from hypertension. She was a mother of six children (three deceased and three alive).