Hospital wrongly claims woman who repeatedly tested negative DIED of the virus – and there are fears there’s more.
By WAYNE FLOWER
A Melbourne hospital has been caught out writing off a patient’s death by COVID-19 despite the woman never contracting the deadly virus.
The elderly woman – whom Daily Mail Australia has been asked not to name – died in Bellbird Private Hospital east of Melbourne in Blackburn South last month after being removed from St Basil’s Home for the Aged.
The woman’s death certificate falsely recorded she died of COVID-19, and it was only fixed after complaint from her family.
Her daughter said the word COVID was eventually scribbled out by a Bellbird doctor and changed to what actually killed her.
‘The doctor said “oops sorry, I just assumed it was COVID”,’ the woman said.
As coronavirus cases within Victoria’s aged care sector continue to soar, there are fears the ‘error’ may not be an isolated incident.
The aged care facility had become a hot bed for the virus in July when a serious COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Fawkner centre.
It was taken over by federal health authorities on July 22, with residents moved to Bellbird Private days later.
The hospital had been converted into a coronavirus treatment hospital as Victoria’s elderly succumbed to the state’s tragic second wave.
On Wednesday, Victoria recorded 1177 active cases of COVID-19 with 97 active outbreaks and six dead, bringing the tally to 570.
More than 200 cases of COVID have been linked to St Basil’s since the second deadly wave kicked off.
The daughter of one St Basil’s resident told Daily Mail Australia she only realised her mother had been listed as a COVID death when she went to organise her funeral.
Under current regulations stipulated by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services, victims of COVID must be buried in a body bag within their casket and cannot be viewed at the funeral home.
The woman, who did not approach Daily Mail Australia, said she had not revealed the incident earlier out of fear of reprisals on her children.
‘I just got scared,’ she said. ‘But yes, mum’s death certificate does say COVID and it doesn’t say COVID now because I put up a stink.’
Already dealing with allegations of abuse against her sick mum at the hands of St Basil’s, the woman said the dodgy death certificate added insult to injury.
‘As soon as I saw it I called the hospital and I said “what’s going on? Mum never tested positive to COVID, why have you put COVID?”,’ she said.
The woman explained to the doctor that her mother could not be buried clothed and would be required to be bagged.
‘I couldn’t handle that. Because I knew mum didn’t die of COVID and so I wasn’t going to accept it,’ she said. So I questioned it and it was changed and an amendment has been put through.’
The State Coroner now has two death certificates for the dead woman – one stating COVID and the other stating something else.
The woman had received the death certificate a day after her mother died within Bellbird, where she had been isolated from real COVID positive patients.
‘I got it through the funeral director,’ she said.
Upon learning of the issue, the Bellbird Private doctor who signed-off on the death certificate claimed it was a mistake.
On July 26, every patient entering Bellbird Private was assumed to be COVID positive, it was claimed.
‘Mum was put there, but mum never tested positive to COVID. They saw her they assessed her, she was close to her use-by-date, stuff it we’ll just put her there,’ the woman said.
‘She’s going anyway, why not? So because she was at Bellbird they’ve thought, it’s a COVID positive hospital and that’s the reason for her death.’
While conspiracy theorists have long argued COVID death rates are deliberately being fudged, a spokesman for Bellbird Private said it was a one-off mistake.
‘Bellbird Private Hospital has cared for a number of St Basil’s residents who were evacuated from the aged care centre after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
‘While most of these residents were COVID-positive, a small number were negative. One resident who sadly passed away at Bellbird was COVID-negative, however, an administrative error saw COVID-19 listed as the cause of death on the patient’s death certificate,’ he said.
‘After being raised by the patient’s family, a corrected death certificate was issued to the family. The hospital has apologised to the family for any distress this error may have caused.’
It is understood hospital staff were advised by DHHS officials that while most of those being transported to Bellbird Private had COVID, those that did not would likely be COVID positive before they died due to exposure within St Basil’s.
The admission by Bellbird is unlikely to deter Saturday’s ‘freedom day’ event where organisers are encouraging 500,000 people to march at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance in protest against Victoria’s lockdown laws.
Last week, Victoria Police Region Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius urged people to not attend and blasted those who planned to, calling them ‘boofheads’ and ‘the tinfoil hat wearing brigade’.
A DHHS spokesperson dismissed rumours hospitals are being paid by the government anywhere up to $25,000 per COVID death for expenses such as cleaning.
‘The department is not aware of any program that provides funding of this nature,’ she said.