Subic-based Australian businessman Steven “Steve” R. Eggers, 56, was declared “Dead-on-Arival” at Baypointe Hospital here in the Subic Bay Freeport, his death certificate said the cause was “sudden cardiopulmonary arrest” or cardiac arrest.
Two days later on October 5, however, an official statement issued by SBMA Chairman & Administrator Wilma T. Eisma classified him as Covid-19’s “first fatality among SBFZ (Subic Bay Freeport Zone) residents.”
“We are deeply saddened to announce the death of a resident of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone,” Eisma said, “SBFZ-28, a 56-year old male foreign national, who was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital on Oct. 3.”
While Eisma did not actually name Eggers as patient SBFZ-28, he was the only 56-year old foreign national who was “dead on arrival” at Baypointe Hospital on that day, prompting relatives and friends to take to social media their protest on the Covid-19 tag.
But Eisma is standing pat on the SBMA statement, banking on the swab on Eggers taken four (4) hours after his death that tested positive of Covid-19, according to the result released by the Philippine Red Cross on October 5.
“The announcement was consistent with Dept. of Health (DoH) protocol on Covid-19 reporting,” Eisma said, that is “to report an individual who had been found Covid-19 positive, as evidenced by a Covid-19 RT-PCR Test Report & Certification issued by the Philippine National Red Cross Molecular Laboratory.”
Relatives and friends of Eggers are not convinced, however, and maintain that his death should not have been attributed to Covid-19.
“Steve had a heart attack at home… and was rushed to the hospital,” Maria, Eggers’ widow told Subic Bay News, “he had no pulse upon arrival and the medical staff tried to revive him for 30 minutes.”
“The day before he died, on October 2, Steve showed no signs of Covid-19,” said Stephen Whiting, a close family friend, “he even walked a mile with me of the factory and he was looking fine… it was just another day.”
According to Maria, they were surprised that the Baypointe hospital staff insisted on a swab test on her already dead husband who, “in the first place was brought to the hospital because of a heart attack.”
“We were given two choices: have a swab post-mortem, or sign a form stating we refused a swab test in which case it would show that Steve died of Covid 19,” Maria said.
“Actually, there was no choice,” Egger’s 17-year old son said, “either way, they were going to declare my dad Covid-19 positive.”
“We demand that his death not be listed as a Covid death as that is not listed on the Death Certificate,” Whiting said, “and that SBMA retract or amend that statement.”
NEGATIVE TEST RESULTS
Whiting, speaking on behalf of Egger’s family and friends, said there are a lot of reasons why they know that he (Steve) was “extremely unlikely” to have had Covid-19.
“Steve’s immediate family and close friends all had swab tests and all tested negative,” Whiting said, “his children who he hugged each day, his driver who he sat in the same car with everyday, and his wife that he slept in the same bed with every night.”
“The post-mortem swab taken four (4) hours after death makes it extremely unlikely to impossible to get a positive result since the virus needs a live host to survive,” Whiting continued.
Even the four (4) funeral parlor attendants, who attended to Egger’s body while awaiting the result of the swab test have tested negative of Covid-19.
Whiting also took exception to SBMA’s lack of effort to conduct contact tracing and disinterest to require Egger’s family to self-isolate or quarantine.
Asked by Subic Bay News, Eisma said the SBMA Public Health and Safety “conducted contact tracing with the Eggers case, but discreetly because of the contention by family and associates that it was not a Covid case.”
“How could contact tracing be done discreetly? Contact tracing needs information directly from the concerned persons, ” Whiting said, “not one person we know was contacted in any way, co-workers, friends or family.”
Questions forwarded by Subic Bay News to Baypointe hospital has not been answered.
The Medical Abstract signed by Baypointe’s Dr. Luis Gilbert Legaspi, emergency consultant and attending physician, said intubation was done during the 30-minute resuscitation period, something Maria, and his son who was in the hospital at the time, deny.
Maria said Baypointe also blocked the family’s plan to have an autopsy conducted on her husband.
Marjorie Hernandez of Baypointe’s Sales & Marketing Dept. said they have to “coordinate” with their “execom” so it will take time to provide answers.
SORROW AND PAIN
“Losing a loved one is bad enough, but losing Steve this way is too much to bear,” Maria said, “we couldn’t go near as he lay for two (2) days on that cold stainless steel table at the funeral home while waiting for the Covid test result, and when it arrived he was ordered cremated immediately, denying family and friends to pay him last respects.”
“People could not even console us during the height of our pain and sorrow because of the Covid-19 tag that scared a lot of people away,” Maria lamented, “despite our negative swab test results, until now we have to bear the stigma of having been exposed to someone confirmed, albeit wrongly, of having died positive of Covid-19.
“We are demanding that his death not be listed as a COVID death as that is not what is stated on his death certificate, and that SBMA retract or amend that statement,” said Whiting, “we would also like to expose the reasons that they would do this, whether for any financial benefit to the hospital or SBMA is the motivation for doing so.”
Meanwhile, Eisma has sent on October 14 a letter to the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid-19 – Central Luzon requesting “clarification” in “tagging of death cases,” which, according to Eisma has not been responded to.
SBMA already has a record of a series of erroneous information released officially during the Pandemic.
On March 18, 2020, SBMA announced that a British national who was classified as “the first Person Under Investigation (PUI) in this Freeport” has tested negative of COVID-19 at The Medical City in Clark where he was transferred from Subic after manifesting symptoms like fever, cough, colds and diarrhea. It turned-out that the announcement was false and, SBMA has been threatened with a lawsuit.
On June 14, 2020, SBMA issued a statement citing that the Subic Bay International Terminal Corp. (SBITC) retrenched 121 workers as a result of “financial difficulties brought about by the new Corona virus (Covid-19) disease pandemic.”
SBITC called out the erroneous SBMA report citing that their operations did not stop and that the company has only 124 employees, thus, retrenching 121 would have left them with only three (3) employees. SBMA eventually issued an official apology.
On August 7, 2020, SBMA officially announced that a Chinese tourist has tested positive of Covid-19, but it turned out, the Chinese was a POGO worker. At the time, tourists were not yet allowed to come to Subic as part of quarantine restrictions in place due to the pandemic. (VVV)