ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) -Coroner Michael Fowler is asking for answers when it comes to COVID-19 testing and death numbers at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s emergency room.
After the controversy, we now understand that state health leaders are stepping in to solve the issue.
During Friday’s city and county COVID-19 task force briefing, Coroner Fowler issued a disclaimer before reporting the latest COVID-19 statistics.
“For the last three weeks, the people that died in the ER were not tested. I requested that they be swabbed and tested, and I thought they were being tested. But eventually, I found out that people were instructed not to test the deaths that died in the ER. So for the last three weeks, I was not getting a report from Phoebe. The Department of Public Health did not get any that died in the ER,” said Coroner Fowler.
Phoebe’s chief medical officer, Dr. Steven Kitchens, was also present at the briefing.
He responded to Coroner Fowler before the meeting ended.
“Phoebe Putney tests every patient who is admitted for COVID-19. We do not test every patient who may come to the ER and is discharged. However, if a patient is brought to Phoebe Putney, and they have expired in the field, and they are not registered as a Phoebe patient, we do not do a COVID-19 test. That patient is under the responsibility of the coroner until the remains are released,” said Dr. Kitchen.
Coroner Fowler says the Department of Public Health will take over the testing of these deceased patients.
Phoebe’s Medical Director for Emergency Services, Dr. James E. Black, also responded to the Coroner’s claims with the following statement:
“We follow proper medical protocols regarding testing and treatment of all patients. We do not order unnecessary tests or generate additional costs for a patient when it will not change the clinical course. We perform COVID-19 testing on every patient admitted to our hospitals and every time it is medically indicated for a patient. While it is not ethically or professionally appropriate for a hospital to perform such tests on a decedent, the coroner has the right and ability to perform COVID-19 tests on deceased individuals. We are in contact with Mr. Fowler and are committed to working with him on a process that serves families, provides him with the data he requests, and protects our responsibility to our patients. It is important to note that a positive COVID-19 test result at the time of death does not necessarily indicate COVID-19 as the cause of death,” said Dr. Black.