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Identities replaced by mistake: Being Corona-free among hundreds of COVID-19 infected

June 03rd, 2020
topic:Health and Sanitation
by:Katarina Panić
located in:Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Austria
tags:Coronavirus, COVID-19, medical care, medical error

Patient identification errors and mistaken test results have been some of the wrong moves during COVID-19, questioning the accountability of Bosnian authorities in handing the pandemic.

Goran Predojević, 38, is an internal medicine specialist gastroenterologist working in Bosnia's town of Prijedor. The hospital covers the region of some 200.000 inhabitants and has one infectologist only and not a single epidemiologist. So, when the first Coronavirus patient was hospitalised, internists were reassigned to the COVID department.

He used to work a 24-hour shift, then to go home for three days before being back on duty. On Wednesday, May 13, his boss called him on the very same day he left the COVID department and tested negative, and instructed him to work the following day. This was because, his boss reasoned., it lessened the likelihood of new infections caused by those who were isolating.

"Being afraid is normal, but to extend it blocks you from operating your duties. If you are afraid, you don't choose medicine to study, you choose economy or whatever", Predojević said to FairPlanet.

But on the day after, instead of going to work, he was on his way to the students' dorm in Banja Luka, where he was going to spend three days until someone managed to prove that he was there by mistake.

"The infectologist called me that Wednesday and told me that my negative result was a mistake and that I'm corona-positive. However, I was sure that this information was mistaken. I begged for retesting before going to Banja Luka, and I managed it. Still, I couldn't persuade them to isolate me while waiting for test results somewhere else, not among few hundreds COVID-positive people that move freely all over the building since there are the cases we call asymptomatic", Goran explained.

RECORDED AS "RECOVERED" TO AVOID THE WORD "MISTAKE" IN FILES

From the very beginning of the pandemic, he used to stick to all general and professional protection measures, so he was genuinely convinced he couldn't get infected. Suddenly, he had to enter the building where all the people are corona-infected. At least, he managed to be alone in a double-bed room.

"Through the window, I see the room I lived in for five years when I studied. The things hadn’t changed, except I was now a bit older", Goran smiles. He does not leave the room, except for taking food that is being delivered three times daily at one long table on each floor. Every time he puts his mask and his gloves on. The food is carefully packed, and he takes his portions once there is no one else in the hall. He saw a baby bed near his room. He also heard children running, jumping and laughing in the corridors.

He and his wife had decided to tell their children, Uroš, 8, and Luka, 6, that daddy went to Banja Luka to work. Once he finally was tested twice more, got the negative results, left the dormitory and went home, the older son asked him how many people he cured. "A lot of people, really, really a lot", he said he answered him while laughing.

Now, the system does not want to admit the mistake; it simply records him as recovered. Therefore, he had to spend two weeks in isolation before going back to work. However, he said that he does not care. He does not want to investigate; he only desperately wanted to be with his family, and once he gets back home, he crossed out that episode in his life just like it never happened.

KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT OR LOSE YOUR JOB

Goran was not the only resident of the student centre "Nikola Tesla" who shouldn't have been there. Police had been escorting six people from the Bosnia–Croatia border to quarantine in Banja Luka where all the citizens travelling from abroad had to spend 14 days in isolation before being released to their homes, as one of the anti-Corona measures. Instead of quarantining in a pupils' dorm where people with unknown Corona statuses live, they have been placed in a students' dorm where all inhabitants were Corona positive.

Among them, there was a woman from Austria who even had a negative result of Corona testing with her, but it didn't help. Unlike Goran, she does press for an investigation.

Not every mistake has a happy end. There were many controversies related to Sarajevo-based epidemiologist Šefik Pašagić's death over a Coronavirus infection. One of his colleagues, an internal medicine specialist diabetologist Dragan Stevanović had decided to go undercover. He pretended to have COVID-19 symptoms, and he started to ask for medical help.

"I had followed all the procedures. I did 37 phone calls. In the end, I was told to stay at home and wait for it to become worse", Stevanović told local media. A few days later, his further engagement with the hospital that he worked for was cancelled.

Milorad Dodik, a member of the tripartite Bosnia's Presidency and leader of biggest Serb political party in Bosnia, Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, had criticised his party colleague and Republika Srpska Prime Minister Radovan Višković for admitting there were some wrong moves during the pandemic.

"There was no single mistake. I want you to put this sentence in conclusions. I want the majority to vote in favour of such conclusions. Everything that has been done during the state of an emergency has been done perfectly", Dodik said addressing the Republika Srpska National Assembly in Banja Luka on May 20.

IDENTITY REPLACEMENT SCANDALS IN CROATIA

In April, hospital staff in Split mixed up the identities of two older women who have dementia. One of them was Corona-positive and was returned to the nursing home where the staff realised, she was not their resident. The other woman died, and it turned out that she had been buried under a wrong identity.

In May, two women with the same surname were mixed up. One who didn't have the Coronavirus infection was put in a COVID-19 department, while the infected one was returned to the nursing home. The head of a hospital, Julije Meštrović, resigned over patient identification errors. Unlike in Bosnia, authorities in Croatia seem to be a bit more sensitive to their accountability.

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
Author
Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia Austria
The hospital covers the region of some 200.000 inhabitants and has one infectologist only and not a single epidemiologist.
"The infectologist called me that Wednesday and told me that my negative result was a mistake and that I'm corona-positive."
In May, two women with the same surname were mixed up. One who didn't have the coronavirus infection was put in a COVID-19 department, while the infected one was returned to the nursing home.