Man Exposed His Family To Covid-19 After Mistaken Test Result

By Ashswita Ravindran |

A case of mistaken identity led to Serdang Hospital allegedly telling a 45-year-old man that he was negative for Covid-19, when he had actually tested positive.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — Ghazali Aziz interacted with his wife and daughter as usual at home, after his quarantine band was removed when Serdang Hospital told him he tested negative the second time for Covid-19.

But two days later, the Ministry of Health (MOH) hospital allegedly told the 45-year-old man a mistake was made because he had the same name as another person and that he was actually positive for the virus.

On December 6 last year, Ghazali developed excruciating pain over his left hip and was brought to Serdang Hospital’s emergency and trauma unit to seek medical attention. He was then admitted to the ward after nine hours of waiting.

“On Thursday, December 10, 2020, my husband was informed that the ward was locked down because a patient in the same ward had confirmed positive for Covid-19,” Ghazali’s wife Sri Azra told CodeBlue.

“My husband had the first Covid-19 screening test in the ward on the same day. On Saturday December 12, the results of the first Covid-19 screening test was found to be negative and my husband was informed that he would be transferred to another ward.”

However, Ghazali was only transferred to a different bed but remained in the same ward. On December 17, Ghazali was discharged as he was told that the ward needed terminal cleaning.

“He was instructed to return home and resume quarantine at home until the second screening test result was released,” Azra added. She said the second swab was done upon her husband’s discharge.

“At home, on Thursday, December 17, 2020, I requested my parents to bring my seven-year-old daughter to return to our hometown before my husband got home because of the high risk if they are in the same house.”

Azra said at home, she and her husband took the necessary precautions, washed their hands, maintained social distancing, wore face masks even at home, and reduced their communication to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

On December 21, Azra brought her husband to the hospital to remove his pink quarantine band.

“He was made to understand the second Covid-19 screening test results were negative. Thus, the pink wristband was removed and he had been given the letter of ‘Release from Undergoing Supervision and Observation Order at Home for Contact of Covid-19 (Annexe 17)’.”

Following that, Azra said since the quarantine period was over and her husband tested negative as told by the hospital first, she did not follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that she previously practiced, such as wearing a face mask at home and maintaining social distancing. Her daughter had also returned home that night.

“On Wednesday, December 23, 2020, my husband received a call from Serdang Hospital at 3.30pm. They admitted the mistake in giving the second Covid-19 screening test results because there are two patients with the same name,” Azra said.

“The hospital later confirmed that my husband had tested positive for Covid-19.”

On December 24, Ghazali was then picked up by an ambulance to be brought to Sungai Buloh Hospital.

“The reason given was the similarity of name between the other patient and my husband. What is the use of MyKad numbers on each wristband if the officer does not refer to it in ensuring that the Covid-19 screening test results are given correctly?” Azra said.

“The hospital’s negligence in the wristband cutting procedure for the Covid-19 screening test endangered my husband and family’s lives, who were exposed to the Covid-19 pandemic,” she added, declining to elaborate if she and her daughter had contracted coronavirus.

Azra also pointed out that Serdang Hospital had its weakness in handling Covid-19 cases in the ward, claiming no Covid-19 screening was done prior to admission.

“I want to protect others. What had happened…had happened. I cannot turn back the clock. What important is the way forward,” Ghazali told CodeBlue.

Azra understands that MOH had no intention of endangering anyone’s life, however she said such negligence may have occurred as MOH has too many cases to handle.

“I hope that our health care system is improved so that Malaysia would survive completely from this Covid-19 pandemic.”

CodeBlue tried to reach Serdang Hospital for their comments on this incident, but did not get any response from them.

Patient May Ask For Compensation: Legal Expert

Law firm Kevin Wu and Associates, which spoke to CodeBlue as an independent observer, said that it was a mistake of Serdang Hospital for not checking the patient’s identification number and the patient may request compensation from the hospital.

“IC number not checked, essential to identify identity and the IC should all the more be checked, which we believe is the standard procedure in medical practice.”

However, the law firm said that in order to establish negligence, it must be proved that the defendant’s breach of duty actually caused the damage suffered by the plaintiff. The law firm believed that the damage caused in Ghazali’s case was too “remote” from the breach.

“To decide this issue, the first question to be asked is whether the damage would have occurred but for the breach of duty.”

The law firm explained to CodeBlue that in order to maintain an action in negligence, the plaintiff must establish — that the doctor owed the patient a duty of care, that the duty was breached, and that the patient suffered harm caused by the breach.

“In the case concerned, there is no doubt that there was a duty of care on the part of the doctor who had admitted the patient and undertook treatment,” the lawyer and his associates told CodeBlue.

“Therefore, the Emergency Order does not come into question in this case. Here, the patient had relied on the information given by the hospital and its management that he was cleared on the Covid test.

“The patient may request for compensation from the hospital for any inconvenience caused and extra expenses incurred throughout the journey of recovery instead of taking a legal action as the situation is different now in the sense that it affects all Malaysians, not just a segment of society.”

The law firm said: “There is no more finger pointing or fault finding. We are all in this together.”

Kevin Wu and Associates added: “The government has shown seriousness by issuing the order, and we must respond positively to that so that the Covid curve can be flattened. That is what the Ministry is trying to do and this requires our support.”

Azra responded by saying that she and her husband do not want to file any lawsuit against Serdang Hospital or ask for compensation with regards to this incident.

“My intention is to create awareness amongst Malaysian regarding the procedure of screening tests and pink wristband removal,” Azra told CodeBlue.

“I hope that our health care system is improved to tackle this pandemic.”

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