…as police, health officials haggle
…Red Cross comes to the rescue with PPEs
MASVINGO — The body of a Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) security guard who dropped dead at home while preparing to go to work on August 07 was left unattended for over 12 hours as Police and the Health officials wrangled on who should attend to the scene first.
Zacharia Chifamba (62) from of Mucheke died a suspicious death as he was about to go to work in the evening and Chikato police were called to attend to the scene.
TellZim News was informed that the police indicated that the nature of the death required health officials to attend the scene first as the police did not have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
When health officials were called, they are said to have refused to attend to the scene saying it was the job of the police to attend to such scenes first.
Normatively, when a person dies unexpectedly outside of a health institution, the police are called to investigate, and they often take the body for a post mortem.
The spread of coronavirus has, however, seen government declaring that all deaths be treated as Covid-19 related until proven otherwise. This means that such dead bodies have to be tested posthumously for the virus before burial.
As the police and health officials from the Ministry of Health bickered on who should attend to the scene first, Chifamba’s body lay on the ground covered with a blanket until the afternoon of Saturday, August 8.
The body of the late Chifamba, whose place of residence is a stone throw away from Chikato Police Station, was only collected after the local branch of the Red Cross Society provided them with PPEs.
Before that, the desperate Chifamba family had called Nyaradzo Life Assurance to take the body away but they were advised to let police processes be done first in line with lawful procedure. The family could not accord the body some dignified care as per culture since the risks involved were immense.
When TellZim News reached out to Masvingo provincial police spokesperson Chief Inspector Charity Mazula for comment, she said the police had responded to the case in reasonable time even though the body spent the whole night and half the following day unattended.
“The police were quick to respond to the case and we wait to get the results from the post-mortem to ascertain the cause of death,” said Mazula.
Chifamba is said to have complained of side pains before his sudden death.
A Red Cross Society employee who spoke on condition of anonymity told TellZim News that the body of Chifamba was left unattended for several hours as the family took precautionary measures against Covid-19.
“The nature of death made everyone suspect that it was Covid-19 hence the family’s decision not to touch or move Chifamba’s body from where he collapsed. They just covered it with a blanket and suffered the pain of waiting.
“We made concerted efforts to engage the police and health officials but they seemed to have their own quarrels. The police then demanded PPEs from us for them to attend the scene the following day.
“I think it should be made clear as to whom to call first when such incidences happen. It was a traumatic experience for the bereaved family,” said the official.
Masvingo Provincial Medical Director (PMD) Dr Amadeus Shamu, as has become his attitude when called by the media, did not answer his phone when TellZim News wanted to get his comment.
In a related matter which occurred recently, a family from First Street, Chesvingo, had to drive the body of a family member who died in her sleep to Masvingo Provincial Hospital for a post-mortem after Health officials whom they had called advised them to take the body to the hospital themselves.