Health officials to probe recent COVID-19 paediatric deaths – Dr Anthony

…as 3 children die before reaching hospitals

The Health Ministry will be investigating the circumstances surrounding the four paediatric COVID-19 deaths last week, in light of the fact that three of these children succumbed before arrival to the hospital.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony

On January 9, a three-year-old boy from Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) died. Then on January 10, a six-year-old girl from Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) succumbed. A 14-month-old boy from Region One (Barima-Waini) died on January 11; while the fourth fatality was reported on January 14, a three-month-old girl from Region Four.
Addressing this trend on Monday, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony informed that a probe will be undertaken to determine what transpired. Three of the four children had already died when they were brought to the respective medical facilities.
“In the last couple of days, we would have seen the four deaths of children and this is something we will do some further investigation on because of the four, three of these children were dead before arrival to the hospital. They didn’t die in the hospital. By the time the parent brought the child to the hospital, the child had already died. That’s why we have to investigate these cases,” the Health Minister underscored.
He added, “When the mother was interviewed in some cases, we would have heard that the child was irritable the night before, had some fever and by the next morning, had difficulty breathing. On arrival at the hospital, when they did the antigen test, they found that the child was positive.”
Going forward, a committee of doctors will review the charts and data from these cases thoroughly, and obtain information from parents to understand this trend. Since the virus was detected locally in March 2020, a total of 15 children have died – a majority of whom had underlying illnesses or comorbid conditions.
“In terms of paediatric deaths since the pandemic started, we’ve had 15 deaths of children – some of them with comorbidities and we continue to monitor and decipher what is causing the deaths. For some of those children that have been hospitalised, we know for sure some of the comorbidities they would have had and the challenges. Some of them, the prognosis was poor with the underlying disease and then they got COVID. So, that compounded or complicated the problem,” Dr Anthony shared.
Comorbid conditions can range from cancer, cerebrovascular diseases, chronic kidney diseases, chronic lung diseases, chronic liver diseases, diabetes, Down Syndrome, heart conditions, HIV, mental health disorders, neurological conditions, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell anaemia, tuberculosis, solid organ transplant patients, smokers or those with substance use disorder.
On the aspect of deaths, the subject Minister relayed that on some days there appears to be a lot of fatalities due to the accumulation of data from days before. As such, it can appear as though the daily death rate has increased.
“When the Ministry is reporting deaths, not all the deaths would have occurred within those 24 hours. Sometimes they bunch the deaths up because we would have had a death that occurred couple days earlier and we didn’t get that information on time. On the day that we report, it looks like there’s a lot of deaths if you don’t read carefully. That’s something I think people need to pay a little bit more attention to.”
Secondly, he clarified that a significant portion of recent deaths were cases with underlying conditions, coupled with the fact that they were unvaccinated against the life-threatening virus.
Dr Anthony vocalised, “Many of the adult patients we had in hospital, they had various underlying illness such as diabetes, hypertension or maybe other illnesses. They were sick for quite some time. Another thing we’ve noticed is that many of these patients are unvaccinated.”

‘Unfortunate mix-up’
In another matter involving a father fetching his child’s body from the hospital to the burial site in Region One, the Minister responding to these reports, indicated that this is not standard operating procedure.
“Let me offer an apology on behalf of the Ministry of Health. This is not the standard procedure. The standard procedure would be that once anybody is pronounced dead, they are in the mortuary and then there is the official handing over of the body to the family. In this case, that [didn’t] happen and there’s a process because there is a vehicle that operates between the Police and the Ministry of Health.”
He further stated that an official ought to have assisted the family in getting the body to the cemetery or site of burial. Information has since pointed to a “mix-up” between hospital staffers and the Police, and therefore, this did not materialise in a timely manner. As such, the family proceeded to bury the child.
“It’s an unfortunate mix-up and I have ordered the RHO to have a thorough investigation, to send me a report so that [we can] put corrective measures in place,” he noted. (G12)