PROFITEERING FROM THE DEAD?

Hospitals defend Covid-19 tests on dead bodies

Some rogue medics accused of gouging grieving families through unnecessary tests

In Summary

• The Ministry of Health has not advised widespread post-mortem testing.

• But some facilities insist on cadaveric tests to "rule out" Covid-19.

A burial for person who died from Covid-19. A test can be conducted on a body.
A burial for person who died from Covid-19. A test can be conducted on a body.
Image: File

Private hospitals have defended Covid-19 tests on dead bodies, a new practice that is increasing costs to the families of the deceased.

The Ministry of Health has not advised widespread post-mortem testing.

But some facilities insist on cadaveric (pertaining to a corpse) tests to "rule out" Covid-19.

Some families of cancer patients have been threatened that if they fail pay for the test, the death would be registered as caused by Covid-19, and the body surrendered for burial according to government protocols.

Dr Abdi Mohammed, chairman of the Kenya Association of Private Healthcare, said such profiteering was unprofessional.

However, he said medics could "use professional judgement to determine if a deceased had signs and symptoms compatible with Covid-19 during life and whether post-mortem testing is necessary."

"Doctors also take into account whether the deceased has had contact with someone who's tested positive. In that case, they will order a test," he said. 

"This will also protect the health workers and family members who will also take tests if they interacted with the deceased." 

Just as is done with living patients, testing is done on bodies by taking a nasal swab. Samples can then be tested at commercial labs.

Director of Public Health Dr Francis Kuria told The Star Covid-19 tests should only be done on a body, if the deceased was highly suspected to have Covid-19. 

"In the facility if they suspect someone has Covid-19, a doctor can recommend a test before or after death," he said. 

"There have also been cases of people collapsing and dying at home. If this is suspected to be a Covid-19 death, the people around should call 719 and medics will collect the deceased and will carry out a test on the body." 

However, Dr Kuria warned facilities must not use Covid-19 tests to profiteer. 

According to Transparency International, pandemics usually open a window for profiteers to gouge the public, and is bad for public health. 

"Reducing the influence of large, private interests is essential for governments to make better decisions for the public good. Public health, not political or corporate interests, must always come out on top," TI says in an advisory given when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

The organisation also warns against exorbitant bills some private facilities raise for hospital care of persons who tested positive.

In Kenya, the official cases reached 19,913 on Friday, after more than 295,280 tests conducted since March. 

On Wednesday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe predicted Kenya's cases will reduce when the cold July season ends.