Panic in Benin over report of alleged coronavirus in UBTH


By Jethro Ibileke

A report in a blog over alleged coronavirus cases at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), has resulted in panic in Benin, the Edo state capital.

The report published by Nigerian Health Blog, also set the social media awash with divergent comments from concerned readers and medical practitioners.

According to the blog, “not more than 25 doctors on self isolation in UBTH after 3 (sic) patients tested positive for COVID-19.”

Many who commented on the report expressed fear and appreciation, with one person saying that “all patients coming through the A&E should be seen as high risk patients. Precautions are to be taken even while clerking. Also, patients for whatever reasons lie in their history. As a doctor or health care personnel, every patient you come across should be assumed to be infected with the corona virus until proven otherwise. That’s the only way to protect yourself.”

It will however be recalled that this medium (TheNEWS) had on Saturday reported that two patients who earlier tested negative to coronavirus disease at the Hospital, later tested positive, and one of the patients reportedly died, allegedly from the virus.

It was gathered that the incident between the accident and emergency unit, where they were first admitted, and the male medical ward, in the Hospital.

TheNEWS further reported that the leadership of Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), UBTH branch, in a message on its WhatsApp platform, expressed concern over the safety of its members who had contact with the said patients.

The message suggested that one of the patients who had been handled like normal cases, later died and further tests confirmed that they were positive for the virus.

“It has been brought to our notice with great dismay that the earlier results of the two suspected COVID -19 cases previously declared negative have turned out to be positive after further tests.

“Whilst the EXCO cannot fully ascertain at this time what may have led to this, it has become imperative at this point to inform our members on the sudden turn of events.

“We expect management to issue a statement on the way forward, as this cuts across all members of staff that have been involved in management of these patients.

“We have been informed by the infectious disease team that new samples (from the patient that is still alive) have been taken and sent out for further investigation,” the message read.

Also reacting to the incident, the Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Prof. Darlington Obaseki, disclosed that contact tracing has been commenced for all staff who had direct contact with the patient.

Obaseki in a memo made available to this medium, confirmed that the patient has been moved to the isolation ward for continued management.

Obaseki said: “The UBTH management has received conflicting results on the COVID-19 status of two of our patients. Another sample has been collected for confirmation.

“While we await this result, the patient has been moved to the isolation ward for continued management.

“Contact tracing has been commenced for all staff who had direct contact with the patient.
Terminal disinfection has been mandated for all places the patient was managed.

“The patient has continued to improve clinically, vital signs remain stable and his SPO2 has ranged between 92-94%.

“Management enjoins everyone to remain calm and continue to observe the necessary standard precautions.

“Please continue to comply with all prior advisories issued by management. These will be regularly updated as needed,” Obaseki stated.

In its update on Sunday morning, the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC said it has confirmed two more cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, with two of the cases in Edo State.

The Centre also reported that Nigeria has recorded one new death from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

However, NCDC did not indicate if the COVID-19 death was at the University of Benin.

However, the Nigerian Health Blog in its report, quoted a senior doctor in the Hospital, as saying:

“Currently 13 House Officers and at least 8 Residents in my department have been asked to go on isolation because they had direct contact with both case. So there is practically no where to scale down further to than to close the department.

“As tension is building in UBTH over this ugly situation, the CMD of the hospital, Prof Darlington Obaseki has set-up a life insurance package for health workers that will be in the front line of treating COVID-19 patients.”

However, independent investigation by our correspondent suggested that the situation was a little different.

When our correspondent visited UBTH on Sunday morning, everything appears to be normal, as medical personnel and other staff of the Hospital were seen going about their respective duties and patients also in the wards.

A Resident Doctor in the male medical ward who volunteered comments to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said that the situation is not as bad as portrayed in the report.

“They are trying to rectify the situation. It was only one of the patients that actually came out positive and they collected samples again for further tests. We did ward-round this morning,” he said.

Effort to get reaction from the Hospital management failed, as calls made to the CMD of UBTH, Prof. Darlington Obaseki, failed to connect.

Speaking to our correspondent, a middle aged woman who was at UBTH to see her husband who is on admission, although while expressing anxiety over the development, maintained that the Hospital still remains her hope for the medical care of her loved one.

“I have heard different stories about coronavirus in the Hospital. I don’t know if the stories are true or not. But even if it is true, what can l do, will l carry my sick husband home? I am not a medical person. I just have to continue to pray to God to protect us from coronavirus and also make my husband well,” she said.