NEWS: Public Health said GMH didn't report April 13 death

Updated: Apr 23

By Johnnie Rosario

johnnie@kanditnews.com


(Yigo, Guam) The Joint Information Center is acknowledging a Guam Memorial Hospital document indicating a 60-year-old Chamorro woman died Monday, April 13 of "Suspected COVID-19 Infection," but says GMH did not report the death to the Department of Public Health and Social Services.


DPHSS is the lead agency for the public health emergency and reports to the public and to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 infection. While the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has reported the death of a suspected COVID-19 case that later was confirmed through laboratory, Guam has not reported any.


The reporting may be incomplete due to orders to dispose of bodies during this public health emergency within 24 hours of death. It is unclear whether this is the case with the woman, who died, but the same document indicates no autopsy was performed.


"During our discussion this morning, {Linda DeNorcey} the [Incident Commander] mentioned that you should inquire with GMHA and ask them if they performed a Nasopharyngeal (NP) swab to test for SARS-CoV-2 on the deceased person as the physicians worksheet indicated that the cause of death was acute respiratory failure due to or as a consequence of suspected COVID-19 infection," public health spokeswoman Bertha Taijeron wrote to Kandit News Saturday morning. "DPHSS is only notified by GMHA’s Medical Records staff for confirmed positive cases to coordinate the timely disposition of the dead body linked to COVID-19."


We followed up to confirm that DPHSS was not made aware of this particular case. "That's correct," Ms. Taijeron replied. "According to our staff who receives the call, he was not made aware of this particular death."

Ms. Taijeron also confirmed that GMH only ever sends death reports to DPHSS of confirmed COVID-19 cases and added, "But, GMHA can test for COVID 19 if they suspect it."


We asked if the Joint Information Center is aware of other instances, where suspected COVID-19 deaths were not officially reported, and whether there is a policy for GMH to confirm COVID-19 testing following death and prior to burial or cremation.


"Not sure what their policy is on suspected COVID 19 deaths but they can test for it," Ms. Taijeron replied. "You can ask them if it’s been done before."


Kandit learned of the unreported death of this woman from a Physicians Worksheet for Death Certificate document on her death.


Similar to the other five COVID-19-related deaths, the deceased had acute respiratory failure due to or as a consequence of pneumonia or sepsis, and had co-morbidities, including cancer and diabetes.


As Public Health suggested, we sent an inquiry to GMH administrator Lillian Perez-Posadas and her assistant, Theo Pangelinan:


"According to this signed document, a 60-year-old woman died at GMH at 0930 on Monday, April 13, 2020 of acute respiratory failure due to or as a consequence of pneumonia/sepsis and "Suspected COVID-19 Infection."
"Public Health told us the reason they never reported the case is because GMH did not report to Public Health.
"Bertha Taijeron told us her Incident Commander for the emergency said to ask GMH whether GMH 'performed a Nasopharyngeal (NP) swab to test for SARS-CoV-2 on the deceased person as the physicians worksheet indicated that the cause of death was acute respiratory failure due to or as a consequence of suspected COVID-19 infection.'
"Our questions are:
Was that test performed on that woman in question?
What was the result of the test and when was GMH aware of the test result?
How many other people have died at GMH of suspected COVID-19 infection?
Were those reports made to Public Health? When?
When did GMH begin in-house testing for COVID-19?
Are there suspected COVID-19 patients who have died and were embalmed, buried, or cremated prior to confirmation of infection?"

Mr. Pangelinan thanked Kandit for the questions and said he would remind Ms. Perez Posadas Monday of our inquiry. She has not responded as of the publication of this story.


Kandit three weeks ago asked the Guam Governor's Office how it would deal with patients who are suspected of having the Coronavirus, but die prior to lab confirmation of infection. We asked this question after Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero issued a policy for cremating or burying bodies within 24 hours of death. "How will the government report COVID-19 fatalities if bodies of suspected cases are burned or buried before any test is done?"


Neither the Governor's Office nor the Joint Information Center ever answered the question.

674 views