Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Helpline investigation underway into home-quarantine death of West Auckland man

An investigation is underway examining all the phone calls a West Auckland man made to the Covid-19 helpline before he died self-isolating at home.

The daughter of the 68-year-old Glen Eden Imam who died two weeks ago after succumbing to the virus said the family was contacted last week by the Covid Response Helpline director advising them there would be an independent audit into his death.

She says family members were told it would focus on the advice their late father received through the Covid helpline to identify any shortcomings after criticisms were levelled by his adult children the phone advice did not allow him to receive the hospital care he desperately needed.

The West Auckland man died on November 10 after spending the last five days of his life in agony coughing up blood and too weak to move, waiting for officials to say he should go to hospital.

The audit, to be conducted by Waitematā District Health Board Chief Medical Officer Dr Jonathan Christiansen, is on top of a coronial inquest into the cause of his death.

In the days leading up to his death, the man’s daughter, who does not wish to be identified, claimed call takers never gave her sick father a directive to go to hospital, instead offering throat lozenges and paracetamol as treatment.

And one point with his health deteriorating and asking if he should go to the hospital she claims he was told that the symptoms he was experiencing were normal.

“They said if you want us we can call an ambulance but these are Covid symptoms and you’ll get better. You’re going through the second hump,” she alleged.

The woman said transcripts of all phone conversations her dying father had with the Covid helpline call takers would be reviewed.

The family were expected to be given the transcripts as soon as next week, and if needed would be requesting audio recordings of the final calls.

“We are in the process of getting the transcripts released to us so we can have a look through and see what actually has happened so that we can provide further feedback.”

She said her father’s English wasn’t perfect and the family was still wondering why he wasn’t offered an interpreter.

“But we’ll see what the transcripts say and from there we will try and get the audio recordings,” she said.

The woman said while the family were pleased the audit was happening, they were concerned members of the Covid-ravaged household, who were also sick inside the home, would not be questioned.

“We feel it is necessary that we are involved because we were there with him at that point, especially my brother and sister who were there throughout the whole period when he was unwell.”

She had been told the report would be finished next month.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre, said: “As already announced, a full review is underway – as part of this process the NRHCC (representing the four Northern region DHBs) is reviewing all the communications with the patient.’

The Health Ministry also reissued a statement saying the cause of the man’s death would be determined by the coroner, including whether it may have been Covid-19 related.

Any deaths which might be Covid-19 related were fully investigated, whether they occurred at home or in a hospital setting.

In the meantime she was pleased to learn there would be changes in the way the growing number of people isolating in homes would be cared for after today’s announcement by Health Minister Andrew Little.

The Government has announced a $300m injection to allow Pharmac to buy new medicines to treat Covid-19, provide extra care with its community approach, introduce support packs for isolating households and regular health checks throughout people’s recovery.

While there had been a terrible cost for her family she said the improvements showed the Covid response was headed in the right direction but was concerned the public health response might still end up in a bottleneck.

“What’s being said, that should have been done a long time ago.

“It’s something that’s going to be welcomed by everyone and I think it’s something as a family we’d want.

“If my dad had received this level of care I probably feel like he could have recovered and still been with us.

“The changes that they’re making is definitely what’s right and I’ll just wait and see how it plays out or if this system gets overwhelmed.

“My dad would have wanted things to change and get better.All his life was for other people. If he was here and saw all the changes that were being made he would be very happy.”

She said her mother and grandmother, who were both treated in hospital for Covid when the infection tore through their household in late October, were getting stronger as theyadjusted to a new way of life without the beloved husband and son-in-law.

“We’re very happy they’re much better,” she said.

The Glen Eden man’s death was the third in the space of a week involving a person on home quarantine. It followed a man in his 40s who died in a Manukau apartment and a man in his 50s who died at a Mt Eden property after discharging himself from hospital.

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