Kiwi mum says she had to 'beg' to get sick son tested for coronavirus

Trudy and her son Bentley had to make his hospital bed.
Trudy and her son Bentley had to make his hospital bed. Photo credit: Trudy Joseph/Google

A Kiwi mum says she had to 'beg' to get her six-year-old son tested for COVID-19, despite him showing symptoms of the virus. 

Trudy Joseph, who is from New Zealand but lives in Australia, was visiting family in Auckland when her son Bentley developed a cough and fever. 

Joseph said her son was sick for a few days but started vomiting on Sunday. The family had only arrived in the country last Thursday from Australia. Coronavirus is spreading through Australia with 368 confirmed cases and five deaths. There is at least one case in every territory. 

Joseph told Newshub they were supposed to be flying back to Australia the next day but decided to cancel and get tested before leaving. 

"He started showing symptoms...and I didn't want to take the chance so we went to the doctors," she said. 

Joseph said it was a mission to find a facility that could test her son and after visiting three different places, she was told to go to Middlemore Hospital. 

When she arrived at the hospital, Joseph said a nurse came out to her car to take her son's temperature, which was 41C. 

She said despite the fever, the nurse was hesitant to test her son and only agreed to admit him after meeting with their supervisors. 

But the ordeal wasn't over. Joseph said the room Bentley was put in was 'dirty' with used linen on the floor, an unmade bed and no pillowcases. 

She said the room clearly hadn't been "properly set up" and she was forced to make the bed while waiting to see the doctor.

The room where Bentley stayed while in hospital.
The room where Bentley stayed while in hospital. Photo credit: Trudy Joseph.

After 3 hours Joseph said the doctor came to check her son and said he looked fine and didn't need a test. 

She protested, pointing out he had all the symptoms of the virus. However, she said it wasn't until she mentioned they were supposed to be travelling that the doctor agreed to the test. 

"They said they were only testing us because we were going to be flying back to Australia. He had all the symptoms and I felt like I was begging for a test to know that my child is okay."

Joseph said they were tested at 8pm and discharged a short time later and told to self isolate until the results came back. 

"We were told we needed to self-isolate but we have an elderly person and my other children at home, so we were then told to go to a motel until the results came back."

Joseph said she called a motel, but they couldn't accommodate her because she might have the virus. 

The doctor then told her to ask her elderly relative to stay at the motel instead. Joseph said that wasn't possible and ended up back at the house where she was staying. She is still waiting on her test results. 

A 'dirty' sheet in the room where Bentley stayed while in hospital.
A 'dirty' sheet in the room where Bentley stayed while in hospital. Photo credit: Trudy Joseph.

A spokesperson for the Northland, Waitematā, Auckland, and Counties Manuaku DHBs said for ethical reasons they can't discuss individual patients' details. However, they said Joseph's son was managed "appropriately". 

"Testing was conducted, appropriate precautions for COVID-19 were taken, and the patient was discharged safely with appropriate advice.

"It is important our communities know that the four DHBs in the Northern Region... have the capacity, expertise and resources to manage the current level of cases - to care safely and effectively for people who become ill.

The spokesperson said many of the people leading the response have previous experience with SARS and MERS.

The spokesperson also acknowledged that "no system is perfect" and urged anyone with concerns about their care to raise it directly with the healthcare provider involved.

They also offered reassurances that Auckland City Hospital is set up to test for coronavirus and has the capacity for 200 tests per day. 

"Currently [we are] using around 50 percent of that capacity. Additional scientists are being trained so that we can increase the volumes of tests to keep pace with requirements."

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged clinicians to conduct more coronavirus tests, insisting New Zealand has the capacity to do 1500 tests per day.

"Our capacity is significant. We're ramping up the ability to have up to 1500 tests per day.

"That test number you've been seeing per day happening in the community is growing day on day."

It comes after World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pleaded with countries to increase their testing. 

Dr Ghebreyesus said WHO has sent almost 1.5 million tests to 120 countries and was working with companies to increase availability.

"You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don't know who is infected," he said.

"We have a simple message for all countries: Test, test, test. Test every suspected COVID-19 case. If they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in close contact with up to two days before they developed symptoms and test those people too."