Shock as Covid results are delivered telephonically

… patients traumatised by insensitive move

By Maria Kandjungu

COVID-19 patients have complained about the negligent and reckless way in which health officials are delivering test results to positive self-isolating patients who are allegedly receiving their results over the phone without any further support despite regulations stating that such results should be delivered in person.

Ministry protocol dictates that positive results must be disclosed in person by a health worker who should also offer counselling to the patient. However Confidente has been reliable informed that some of the team members responsible for delivering results are defying the protocol and choosing to casually deliver the bad and often traumatic news to patients over the phone without zero preparation.

A Windhoek woman narrated how on September 28, she received a call from a landline number belonging to the health ministry informing her that she had tested positive for Covid-19.

“In that moment I was in shock.

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I didn’t ask any questions because I couldn’t believe it. She asked if I still have the symptoms that I had when I went to get tested about 10 days before and when I told her no, she said I should tell my close contacts to go get tested.

“She then said that since it had already been 10 days and I am not feeling sick anymore the ministry will call me back to get a retest. That was Friday, today is Wednesday and I am still waiting (sic).

“I live with other people in the house and no one from the ministry bothered to ask me about my living situation or even try to assess it.

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I was not even asked if I have enough space at home to self-isolate. I was just left there in shock. At the same time I had to go tell those that I live with, the landlord and everyone that I may have come in contact with, at work, that I have tested positive and that they should go for testing,” she said adding that she did all this while still in disbelief.

“I didn’t have an answer to most of the questions being asked. I was feeling scared for myself and for all the people I could possibly have infected. I am still afraid that people will blame me if their results come out positive,” the patient said.

Currently the patient is  self-isolating at home which she shares with her two housemates and a few other tenants who rent in the same yard and is yet to hear from the ministry on what she should do next.

Another patient said his results too were delivered over the phone while he was driving about two weeks ago.

“They don’t prepare you… the person just says they are calling from the ministry with results for your Covid-19 test. Then they go on to say you have tested positive. I was driving and I just went in shock.

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I had a short panic attack but luckily, I was with someone in the car who helped me stop the car and took over from me and drove us safely home. It is such a reckless way of giving someone bad news,” he said.

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Another patient who got his positive results over the weekend said that his too were delivered over the phone and he is still waiting for a call back.

“I was told that if I am fine, I can go and get a clearance letter so I can go back to work. She (health worker) said I didn’t need a retest as long as I am feeling fine but she also said she will call me and I am still waiting on that call.”

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula said that health workers were wrong to deliver positive results  over the phone as those are not the instructions of the ministry.

“I will have to follow up with the team, but it is not supposed to be like that.

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It is supposed to be done in person.

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The social worker or health worker who discloses the results is supposed to do it in person and offer counselling to the patient. They are also supposed to make arrangements for what happens to the person in terms of identifying an isolation facility and if there is none then look at the possibility of self-isolation at home. They are also supposed to identify contacts and trace them,” Shangula said.

While results take a maximum of three days at private hospitals, it takes up to 10 days to receive results for tests done at public institutions especially in Windhoek where there is high backlog.