The Jakarta Post
A Singaporean man, identified only as AA, 61, who was suspected of having contracted the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, died in Batam on Feb. 22 in a coronavirus referral hospital. He had previously gone to an emergency unit of a private hospital with symptoms similar to the coronavirus infection. The Batam Health Agency said he died of “another illness”, not COVID-19, because the patient’s test results for the virus had come back negative.
The man arrived at Awal Bros Hospital in Batam on Feb. 20 at noon, hospital spokesperson Cynthia Latuma told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. Cynthia said that after an emergency unit doctor examined the patient and found that he had a fever and was short of breath, Awal Bros referred AA to BP Batam Hospital, one of Indonesia’s referral hospitals for the novel coronavirus.
“He had just returned from Singapore, and he had a fever. We thought that he might have the coronavirus infection, although we did not know for sure. To mitigate the risks, we sent him to BP Batam Hospital, which is the referral hospital for coronavirus,” she said.
As of Wednesday, Singapore has recorded more than 90 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of these, a total of 58 have recovered. An Indonesian migrant worker is among those 58.
Medical staff walked into the isolation room of Mohammad Hoesin Hospital (RSMH) Palembang, South Sumatra, Tuesday (2/18/2020). (Antara/Nova Wahyudi )
Cynthia said the decision was made to follow the standard operating procedure, as agreed upon in a meeting with the Batam Health Agency, when hospitals dealt with patients suspected of having the coronavirus.
The head of the Batam Health Agency, Didi Kusumajadi, however, said his office had sent a sample to the Health Ministry lab and that the test had come back negative.
Batam Port Health Office (KKP) head Achmad Farchanny confirmed to the Post that samples obtained from the Singaporean citizen had been sent to Jakarta on Feb. 21 to be tested at the Health Ministry's laboratory. The patient, however, died on Feb. 22, before the lab returned the negative results.
“We knew from the start that the man was not a COVID-19 patient because he was a regular patient at Awal Bros because of his illness. The Health Ministry lab also showed that the result came back negative from the lab,” he told the Post on Wednesday.
Didi said the patient was not referred to BP Batam Hospital because he was suspected of having COVID-19.
“He was referred [to BP Batam Hospital] because of what we call risk management. This is a term that hospital staff already understand well. It means a patient is referred to another hospital that is more competent in that area,” Didi said.
AA died two days after entering treatment at BP Batam Hospital. AA had an Indonesian wife living in Batam.
Didi said the hospital had not yet released the body in accordance with Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) procedures in Singapore concerning the coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, the PHEIC refers to “an extraordinary event, which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease; and to potentially require a coordinated international response”.
“This definition implies a situation that is serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected state’s national border; and may require immediate international action,” the WHO website says.
“This is a matter of global ethics in relation to Singapore, so the body is still in the morgue,” said Didi.
He said the Intelligence and Security Directorate at the Riau Islands Police would handle the body.
AA’s wife and their two daughters, who were waiting for the body to arrive at a funeral home, declined to comment. “We are in mourning,” his wife said.
The family, however, had held a traditional Islamic funeral on Feb. 22.
One of AA’s neighbors said AA lived in Batam and had returned to Singapore to get a stamp in his passport. She said that to her knowledge he would be buried in Batam. “We’re wondering why [the hospital] has yet to return the body to his family. We are concerned,” she told the Post.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a confirmation from the Batam Port Health Office on the results of the patient’s test for the novel coronavirus.