My mother didn’t die of Covid-19, says MP Njomo

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
Kiambu Town MP Jude Njomo yesterday told National Assembly Health committee that his mother did not succumb to coronavirus as alleged by the government. Photo/PD/File

A Member of Parliament has narrated his family’s anguish after his mother was diagnosed with coronavirus in controversial circumstances, four days after her death, forcing them to bury her at night in a hurried ceremony.

Kiambu Town MP Jude Njomo yesterday told the Health Committee of the National Assembly that his mother, Margaret Wambui, 86, fell ill on June 8 and was rushed to Mater Hospital, where she died three weeks later.

But after four days of mourning, government officials called him to say that his mother had died of the deadly virus and the burial needed to be conducted under Ministry of Health protocols. He claimed that his attempts to question the results fell on deaf ears.

“I tried to beg for more time but in line with the law... we received a call at 3pm and we buried her by 8pm.

For the 86 years she had lived we felt that we did not give her dignity,” said the MP in an emotional address to members of the committee.

Njomo said his family ordered two separate tests at the National Influenza Centre and the Nairobi Hospital and both turned out negative.

“My concern is how many Kenyans have been receiving wrong results from these agencies.

From my experience it is obvious that hundreds of Kenyans are isolated and quarantined because of wrong results,” said Njomo.

The MP had moved to Parliament to have the matter investigated and yesterday the chief executive officer of Mater Hospital and the head of Lancet Pathologist Labs, Dr Ahmed Kalebi, appeared before the Health Committee of the National Assembly to respond to the matter.

The committee has also summoned the Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache, acting Director General of Health Patrick Amoth, the head of Kemri Prof Yeri Kombe, the director of the National Influenza Centre and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board.

Laboratory report

Appearing before the committee, Lancet boss Dr Kalebi told members that they were made aware of the case through a communication from the acting Director General of Health who on June 12, 2020, sent a message via WhatsApp.

He had attached two laboratory reports and stated that they were from the same patient (Jomo’s mother), but with different results.

The first was a report from Lancet, Lab Ref Number 729204104, bearing the name Margaret Wambui, stating that the sample was received on June 10, 2020, at 02.59 hours.

The sample collection date was not stated. The result for the SARS-COV-2 PCR is shown as Positive in a report dated June 10, 2020, 19.41 hours. 

The second report from the Nairobi Hospital, Encounter Number 102006111478, had the name Margaret Wambui, whose sample was received on the June 11, 2020, at 2258hours. The sample collection date is stated as June 11, 2020, at 22.57 hours.

The result for the SARS-COV-2 PCR is shown as Negative in the report dated June 12, 2020, 13.01hours. 

“Shortly after receiving the communication from the DG, I got a call in the same evening at 19. 17 hours from Omuro Mamo, the Laboratory head of the National Influenza Centre who further briefed me of discordant results between the samples tested at Lancet and the Nairobi Hospital, which the DG instructed be re-tested at NIC from the residual sample stored at Lancet,” Kalebi told the committee chaired by Sabina Chege (Murang’a County).

On the afternoon of June 13, 2020, Mamo called Dr Kalebi at about 15.45pm to inform him that the sample was re-tested at NIC and found to be negative.

Mater Hospital CEO Dominic Mwenje told the committee that the institution neither reached out to Lancet nor followed up on the contentious results.

 “I believe that we didn’t contact Lancet about the negative result from the other labs; being a national credited lab used by many hospitals and institutions, when the two returned negative results we did not follow up on this case,” Mwenje told stunned MPs. 

Njomo told the committee that from his experience, there must be many voiceless Kenyans who have been subjected to misery and despair due to inefficiencies by laboratories.

The matter will continue next week with the Health Principal Secretary, Dr Amoth, Director General Kemri and the rest of those summoned expected to appear.

Yesterday, the ministry of Health defended its Coronavirus testing regime currently in use terming it reliable amid complaints of conflicting results.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman said all the 28 testing laboratories approved to test Covid-19 strictly followed the laid down procedures.

He, however, admitted that the ministry was aware of cases where private labs have issued varying results in the recent past, adding that the matter was being investigated with a view to taking appropriate action.

“Tests can fail because of many factors such as transportation of samples and duration; the longer you keep a sample, its viability goes down,” he said. “The samples are transported cold, in ice.

The reagents also have to be stored in the right conditions.... but we are addressing these that have come to our attention and if we realise that there was a case of negligence then we will take necessary action,” he said.

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