Kin of COVID fatality given a ‘runaround’ in GenSan

General Santos City. Map courtesy of Google

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 02 September) –  An incident here where the family of a person who died before knowing he was positive for COVID-19 alleged they were given a runaround exposed possible lapses on the part of authorities in handling such cases.

Jay Abendan, a resident of barangay Fatima, said that around 9 p.m. on Tuesday, August 31, they rushed their 66-year old father Cresencio to a private hospital here after he experienced difficulty in breathing.

At the Diagan Cooperative Hospital, personnel of the facility told the Abendans their father needed to be tested for COVID-19 before he could be admitted for treatment.

But before results of the test could be known, Cresencio died at 10:15 p.m. without even knowing he had the virus.

The hospital then referred the Abendans to Barangay Fatima Rural Health Unit (RHU) for the management of Cresencio’s cadaver. Staff at the hospital tried calling the RHU by phone but no one responded, Abendan said.

Following the instruction of a hospital employee, the family left on board an old Hyundai van, the vehicle that took them and their father there, without the necessary protective gear.

The cadaver was wrapped in the same blanket he had on him when taken to the hospital.

At the RHU, Jay said they were made to wait for a couple of hours as the staff made arrangements for the cremation.

He said they were told they had to pay P10,000 before the cremation and another 10,000 after receiving the ashes of their father’s remains.

He said they were told by the RHU staff to bring the dead body to the lone crematorium in this city, some 15 kilometers away.

It was early dawn when they reached the crematorium. Jay said they talked with personnel of the facility and were about to bring out the cadaver, “but were refused because the body was not placed inside a cadaver bag.”

Around 8 a.m. on Wednesday, August 31, feeling exhausted after hours of being given the “runaround” by people who could have advised them about protocols and what they needed to do, the siblings decided to go and seek help from a local radio station in Bula, this city.

“They gave us a runaround, we were confused what to do. It was so sad because a family member died. It was so hard,” a crying Jay told Jojo Bacalanmo, chief of reporters of Bombo Radyo Gensan, in the vernacular.

Bacalanmo told MindaNews they have always been cautious on who enters their compound and that when he saw Jay about to open the gate, he asked him what his purpose was.

“It’s my Papa, Sir, Cresencio, your former talent, he died of COVID,” he quoted Jay as saying.

The dead man was a haranista in one program of the radio station.

“When I heard COVID, I told him not to come near and that we can talk at a distance,” Bacalanmo said.

He said he told the Abendans to stay put and not go anywhere, fearing they would go around and spread the virus. He then called by phone several officials for help.

He said there were some who made “alibis,” saying they were busy with other things while a health official said they have yet to investigate the hospital who released the cadaver.

“But, the situation required urgency and I fear the presence of the dead man along the road might invite curious onlookers,” he went on.

Getting no immediate response from officials in the city, Bacalanmo decided to call Dr. Butch Dulduco, head of the Department of Health in Sarangani Province.

Dulduco immediately went to the area and brought with him personal protective equipment and a cadaver bag.

A funeral parlor eventually agreed to fetch the remains of Cresencio and brought it back to the crematorium where it was cremated afternoon of Wednesday, August 31.

Dulduco said he was bothered by the seeming lack of urgency on the part of some offices and personnel, saying that as public servants, they have to give time to assist people in need.

He said what happened can be a learning experience and help improve procedures and protocols. (Rommel G. Rebollido/MindaNews)