ZdG Debunks Fake News Around COVID-19 Deaths (Part II)

ZdG Debunks Fake News Around COVID-19 Deaths (Part II)
29 June 2020 | 14:35

ZdG continued debunking fake news around the COVID-19 deaths in five new cases that spread rumors in the villages where the deaths took place. While analyzing the cases, ZdG concluded that no one offered money to the relatives of people who have died of various diseases to list the cause of death as COVID-19. The persons concerned stated clearly and unequivocally that no one offered them money, and there was no discussion about financial aspects when they picked up the bodies from the hospitals.

In fact, two deaths that generated much discussion do not figure in the list of COVID-19 related deaths. ZdG found that these rumors are generated by a dire lack of information, explanations and dialogue with the authorities.

Last week, ZdG investigated rumors that sparked heated debates on social media platforms. The rumors claimed that doctors or policemen offered money to the relatives of people who have died of various diseases to sign documents stating that the death was caused by the new type of coronavirus.

On May 17, 2020, the Ministry of Health announced the death of Tamara Moruz, a 63-year-old woman from Ungheni, the center of Moldova. She was hospitalized at Timofei Moșneaga Republican Clinical Hospital on May 6, 2020. She had several comorbidities type two diabetes, hypertension, and mixed nephropathy.

Tamara Moruz is from the Chirileni village, Ungheni district, the center of Moldova. In this village, like in many Moldovan villages, people gossip that the Moruz family would have received money because Tamara Moruz’s (63 years old) death was listed as a COVID-19 death. We’ve talked to Nicolae Moruz, the deceased’s husband, who took her body from the hospital. We found out that Tamara Moruz used to go to the Dialysis Center in Chișinău three times a week due to kidney diseases. Her husband claims that in the last two months before her death, she traveled to Chișinău by car, avoiding public transport and subsequently the exposure to the COVID-19 infection. 

Nicolae Moruz claims that no one has ever proposed money to his wife to be registered as a person who died because of COVID-19. On the contrary. He accuses that he took his wife from the hospital, without earrings and without the gold chain she was wearing when he left her in the hospital. 

He says that after his wife tested positive for COVID-19, he was forced to stay in quarantine for 14 days, during which time he did not develop symptoms. 

Photo: World Health Organization in Moldova

Nicolae Moruz reiterates that nobody proposed any money to him. 

“I took her from the hospital. I was in quarantine for two weeks while she was in the hospital. I didn’t leave the house at all. I couldn’t go to her. And because she had no one to take her, and I had to be quarantined for two more days, she stayed two more days in the morgue. Suddenly, as I came out of quarantine, I picked her up and buried her. They didn’t even let me in the yard. From the hospital, they gave me her body covered,” remembers Tamara Moruz’s husband, who claims that when he took her body from the hospital, he didn’t receive the earrings and the gold chain she was wearing.

Timofei Moşneaga Republican Clinical Hospital

Searching for the Patient’s Gold Objects

ZdG asked the representatives of Timofei Moșneaga Republican Clinical Hospital to find out more about the issue mentioned by Nicolae Morus and about his wife’s lost things.

Marina Zibliuc, the spokesperson of the medical institution, specified that Tamara Moruz had with her a Nokia brand mobile phone, but she didn’t have the things mentioned by her husband

However, she specified that the patient would have arrived at Timofei Moșneaga Republican Clinical Hospital in a very serious condition from another medical institution, Hospital no. 1, after being previously hospitalized at the COVID-19 Center inside Moldexpo. 

Cristina Ipatii, public relations and communication specialist at the Clinical Hospital no. 1 informed us that such a patient was not hospitalized in this medical institution.

The representatives of the COVID-19 Center informed us that the institution doesn’t take the belongings of the patients. Furthermore, the COVID-19 Center doesn’t have space to store the personal belongings of the patients. Subsequently, there is no possibility that the personal belongings of patient Tamara Moruz remained at the COVID-19 Center. They specified that Tamara Moruz was transferred from the Center directly to Timofei Moșneaga Hospital.

“They Didn’t Even Ask Me What to Write on the Certificate”

The story of Tamara Moruz from Chirileni is closely related to another case in the district about which there are also rumors. 

Zinaida Cerna, from the village of Bușila was going to Chișinău to the Dialysis Center, together with Tamara Morus and with the same transportation. 

Rumors about Cernei’s family even reached the ears of Nicolae Moruz, Tamara Moruz’s husband. “I heard they were offered money, but I don’t know from where. They didn’t offer me anything. People talk. They didn’t even ask me what to write in the certificate,” Nicolae Moruz says. 

After last week, ZdG debunked fake news around COVID- 19 deaths, an internet user suggested us to analyze the case in Bușila, Ungheni district, the center of Moldova. The internet user also gave us the name of the deceased person.

In Bușila, people gossip that Cernei’s family would have taken money to agree for Zinaida Cernei’s (68 years old) death to be listed as a COVID-19 death. 

We’ve spoken with Denis, the woman’s son, who took care of her throughout her hospital stay. The young man denied that anyone had offered him money so that his mother’s death could be listed as a COVID-19 death. He added that his mother died at the Holy Trinity Hospital in Chișinău, where patients diagnosed with the new type of coronavirus are not hospitalized. She was tested negative for COVID-19 and, after death, buried without the restrictions applied to people with COVID-19. 

“She had recovered from a two weeks coma”

No one has ever offered me money,” says Denis, upset on how the healthcare system took care of his mother. The boy remembers visiting his mother on a Friday.

“I fed her, she seemed fine. She had recovered after about two weeks in a coma. The doctors told me she was stable and we were going to take her home. They couldn’t keep her in the hospital long. A few days after I saw her, I was told she was dead. She did not have COVID. I know people talk, but she was buried normally. It does not appear in the statistics either. I rather think it was medical negligence. She was going to have dialysis regularly, but I don’t know what they did there,” says the young man.

Zinaida Cernei’s problems appeared because she did not have dialysis according to the schedule. Denis Cernei claims that his mother’s access to dialysis was restricted while they were testing Tamara Cernei for COVID-19. The young man believes that these problems later caused her death.

“The treatment of this person was performed according to the therapeutic protocols. Also, the treatment is fixed in the medical record. If a relative does not agree with the treatment, there are medical councils, which can verify the treatment,” Galina Alcaz, the spokesperson of the Holy Trinity Hospital told ZdG. 

“The BB-Dialysis Administration Excludes the Possibility of Patients Being Infected within the Center”

We tried to discuss the cases of Zinaida Cernei and Tamara Moruz with the representatives of the Dialysis Center, where the two women received treatment. We were asked to send an email with a request for information. Two days later, we were informed that we would receive a response according to the law on access to information. 

Previously, the representatives of the Dialysis Center informed us that “the BB-Dialysis administration excludes the possibility of contamination of the these two patients with COVID-19 within the Center,” mentioning that they will return with details. ZdG will return with the full response of the Dialysis Center.

However, the website of the Dialysis Center states that the institution has taken several protection measures for patients and their relatives who received treatment at the institution

“The centers opened within the public-private partnership from the beginning were designed so as to minimize the risk of contamination of the patients with respiratory infections or other types of infections. In addition, in the context of the pandemic with COVID-19, other measures were taken,” the institution mentions.

Thus, from the moment of entering the BB Dialysis Centers (Chișinău-1, Chișinău-2, Cahul, Bălți) the employees and the patients wear protective masks, disinfect their hands twice, and the temperature is taken (with non-contact thermometer) of employees and patients by the receptionist or other staff. At the same time, the disinfection of the surfaces is done six to ten times a day, and the people who accompany the dialysis patients are also equipped with masks, gowns, trunks and are obliged to respect the hygiene of the hands.

Another Story in the South of the Country

We also heard discussions and rumors about COVID-19 deaths in Cahul district, south of Moldova. In the village of Văleni, one of the cases became public, after Valeriu Grecu, through TVR Moldova, accused that his father had not died due to COVID-19, as announced by the representatives of the Cahul District Hospital.

Grecu states that his father was hospitalized at the Cahul District Hospital on a Saturday afternoon, and died on Sunday. The young man is sure that his father did not die of COVID-19, as announced by the Ministry of Health in a press communiqué, but he states that no one offered him money to accept for his father’s death to be listed as a COVID-19 death.  

Valeriu Grecu / Source: TVR Moldova

“Of course he did not die of COVID if he worked with me until the last day. I put him in the ambulance with a stomach ache. The ambulance took him to the hospital and he was told that in 24 or 48 hours if he recovers, they will make some analyzes for him. He had a stomach ache before, but he drank another pill and the pain subsided. The doctors told me he was heart-sick. The next morning, I went to the hospital, because I had to pay for the insurance and to bring him things. I arrived at 07:00 a.m. At 09:20 a.m., someone came out and told me that he died,” the son of the deceased person says. 

“Thursday Night, I Had the Result from the Private Clinic that He Does NOT Have COVID”

Valeriu claims that on Sunday morning he was told that his father had died of a heart attack. 

“I asked the doctors why he died. They said: heart attack. I asked them if I could take him that day, Sunday, but they said no, because there are no doctors. They told me to go the next day, in the first hour. He didn’t have COVID on Sunday, but on Monday, at 09:00 a.m., they told me he had COVID. At 08:59 a.m. the news came out in your newspaper that a 62-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman died of COVID in Cahul. Already when I went to pick him up, I was told he had COVID. I ask, “What kind of Covid, if he didn’t cough, didn’t have a temperature?” They told me it was COVID,” says Valeriu Grecu. 

The young man states that he did believe the statements of the representatives of the medical institution and asked for explanations. Valeriu complained to the administration of the hospital and filed a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office in Cahul. He was allowed to take his dead father and to a post-mortem test. The test was negative. With the test done repeatedly, post-mortem, five days after his death, Valeriu’s father was buried in a Christian way.

“In Statistics He Appeared as Dead of COVID, but He Is Not of COVID”

No one had any symptoms. They didn’t even put us in quarantine. If it was COVID, they had to come on Sunday and put me in quarantine, because they said they had the test on Sunday, at 4:00 a.m.,” claims the man, who also filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office, accusing the doctors of negligence. Even in these circumstances, the man claims, repeatedly, that no one offered him money for his father’s death to be listed as a COVID-19 death. 

“I didn’t even enter the morgue. I heard that there, in the morgue, when you sign the documents, they offer you money. But I didn’t enter. I told them I will not take him, from outside of the morgue.. We, the family, had no symptoms, nothing. He was buried as a non-COVID person. In the statistics he appeared as dead of COVID, but he didn’t die because of COVID. My father was not registered with chronic diseases,” accuses Valeriu. 

The death of the man was announced by the Ministry of Health on the morning of June 1 under number 296: A 62-year-old man from Cahul, hospitalized at the Hospital in Cahul, on May 30, 2020. He had several comorbidities: cardiovascular disease, chronic hypertension, angina pectoris IC gr. IV.

“We Tested Him When He Was Alive, and We Received the Results When He Died”

Elena Tatu, the deputy director of the Cahul District Hospital, explains that there are more misunderstandings. She says she showed Valeriu the COVID-19 test results of his father and that they came after the death was confirmed.

Elena Tatu, deputy director, Cahul District Hospital

“The doctors took care of him. He died of a heart attack. At the same time, he had COVID-19, found during testing. That’s it. Of course, the lab test confirmed the COVID-19 positive result. Personally, I showed his son the test. Valeriu Grecu’s father was hospitalized on Saturday, around two to three days, and in the morning, the next day, around 05:00-06:00 a.m., he died. I don’t know where COVID came from. When he was hospitalized, he had dyspnea. At the same time, the test was taken at COVID. The hospital does not do the test. We just took the samples. Ask questions about the truth in the lab. We just take… What we receive, that’s what we indicate. We comply and adopt a tactic,” states Elena Tatu. 

The representative of the Cahul District Hospital states that it is not within their competence to comment on the repeated test performed by the Grecu family at a private laboratory in Chișinau, which showed a negative result.

The deputy director of the Cahul Hospital states that she does not know why the family was not forced to be in quarantine : “The family doctor was informed. We are not the ones who have to indicate what a person should do, when to be placed in quarantine.”

Furtună: “The Doctor Was Obliged to Also Write COVID in Documents and the Doctor Wrote Correctly”

Nicolae Furtună, head of the National Agency for Public Health (ANSP) confirms that the result of the test of the man from Văleni at COVID-19 was positive and that the test result reached the hospital after the death had already been ascertained. The head of ANSP mentions that the result at COVID-19 performed by the private laboratory, a few days after his death, is no longer relevant. Furtună, however, avoided specifying whether the private laboratory that undertook that test did the right thing or not. 

Nicolae Furtună, head of ANSP

“Whatever laboratory would’ve done the test it would’ve received the same result. After four days from the day he died passed no laboratory will find the virus in the body. The coronavirus cannot survive for so many days. It is impossible. Logically, at that time, the virus could not be detected,” says the head of ANSP. 

“The test was positive, but he did not survive due to another pathology. The cause of death is not COVID infection, the cause was cardiovascular disease. COVID was stated among other things because he had a positive COVID test. In the healthcare system, there is a saying that what you write in the documents is not for you, but for the prosecutor. Subsequently, the doctor had to write COVID in documents and the doctor wrote correctly,” explains Furtună, who, however, avoided giving an appreciation to the actions of the laboratory that performed the post-mortem test.

Furtună claims that in Moldova there are no restrictions on the burial of people who died of COVID-19 and claims that the press misinterprets this aspect. “COVID is not a plague,” concluded Furtună.

While discussing with ZdG, Valeriu Grecu stated that he heard people in the village mentioning that a man whose father died at home, would have been offered money so that this man’s father death would be listed as a COVID-19 death. Grecu told us this man’s last name: Tecuci. 

We found his son, Leonid, who denies the statements of his countryman, adding that no one proposed him any money. Leonid also mentioned that his father died due to a heart attack and the COVID-19 disease wasn’t even mentioned. 

A Man from Văleni Came in Chișinău for a Checkup at the Doctor and Died the Next Day

In the village of Văleni, Cahul, another death was also registered, which brought several questions to the relatives. The accusations in this case are also fueled by the fact that, the Ministry of Health announced that Ion Lupașcu was hospitalized at the Institute of Emergency Medicine on May 5, 2020 and died on June 5. Although, in reality, on May 5, the man was in his native village. And he was hospitalized in the Emergency Department just a few hours before the death was found. 

Ion Lupașcu was transferred to the Emergency Institute in the evening, on June 5. He died a few hours later

Nicolae Lupașcu, Ion Lupașcu’s son, remembers that, on June 4, his father, accompanied by his daughter, arrived at the Republican Center for Medical Diagnosis (CRDM) in the capital, with an appointment for 10:40 a.m., where he was installed a heart rate monitor.

His temperature was checked and found to be within the allowable range. Nicolae Lupașcu states that, after the device was installed, as he was in a state of inflammation of the body and had difficult breathing, around 01:00 p.m., at the instructions of the Hospital’s doctor, he went to the Cardiology Dispensary, where it was decided to admit him to the Institute of Cardiology for the treatment of inflammation. 

The man states that, inside the Cardiological Dispensary, his father’s temperature was measured again and this was in the admissible norm. Only, later, around 02:00 p.m., Ion Lupașcu’s temperature was measured again, this time with a different thermometer and a fever of 37.2 was detected. The man was immediately isolated, and around 06:00 p.m. he was transported to the COVID-19 Center in Moldexpo.

The family claims that they did not know anything about Ion Lupașcu’s health for 24 hours. The next day, on June 5, around 06:00 p.m., after several requests, his daughter was informed by the representatives of the COVID-19 Center that Ion Lupașcu is in serious but stable condition, not having assisted breathing, but being confirmed positive with COVID-19.

Because he had cardiological problems, according to the protocol, he was to be transferred to the Institute of Emergency Medicine, to resuscitation. 

“No one showed us the COVID-19 positive test. Two to three hours after the transfer, he died. At 06:00 p.m. he was fine. How the hell from 07:00 to 08:00 p.m., when he was transferred, to die in a few hours? ” asks the son of the deceased. Nicolae says that he found out about his father’s death on June 6, when he called the institution to find out about his condition. 

“Now, I’m telling you my strictly personal opinion. My father was killed by the medical system. That’s my position. A person cannot be in the hospital and, in two to three hours, the situation will get so much worse that he will die. Either he had a heart attack due to stress, or he had a heart attack due to incorrectly administered drugs,” considers the son of the deceased man.

“He went to some examinations. He didn’t go because he was sick. He went on his feet, without temperature, without anything. He had an early appointment, on June 4, for his device to be installed. He had a respiratory problem, but he had it because, at 71 years old, he weighed 120 kg. He had a harder breath, but that was his normal condition,” accuses Nicolae Lupașcu. 

Ion Lupașcu died at 11:00 p.m., at the Emergency Institute. Authorities said he was infected with COVID-19. Photo symbol / Hospital Nr. 1

Ion Lupașcu’s son claims that his father was not hospitalized on May 5, as mentioned later in the press release of the Ministry of Health. Moreover, Lupașcu’s son claims that from home, his father showed no signs of COVID-19.

“My father’s death was registered with the number 331. He was hospitalized on June 5, but the statistics show May 5. Is it a drafting mistake or was money really paid for each day of hospitalization, because I understood that big money is cashed for each day of hospitalization,” says the man. 

Absolutely no one in the family had symptoms of COVID. On Saturday, after I already found out that he had died, they called me from Public Health to inform me that my father had been confirmed, a day ago, positive. I informed him that he was not confirmed, but he was already dead because of COVID. However, no one called us to inform to isolate ourselves. If COVID is so dangerous, why doesn’t anyone call us to place us in quarantine,” states Nicolae Lupașcu. 

However, although they did not agree that Lupașcu Ion died after being infected with COVID-19, the family complied with the legal requirements for burying a person tested positive for COVID-19.

At the same time, the man claims that no one ever offered him money and no one consulted with him when the COVID-19 infection was established. “I saw the articles. I was not offered anything,” says Nicolae. 

The death of Ion Lupașcu was announced on the morning of June 6, 2020, by the Ministry of Health. Death 331: a 71-year-old man from Cahul district. Admitted to the hospital on May 5, at the Institute of Emergency Medicine. Comorbidities: hypertensive heart disease, chronic bronchopneumonia, diabetes, obesity gr. III.

“It Was Probably a Mechanical Mistake”

Igor Curov, deputy medical director, Institute of Emergency Medicine explains, in detail, how the case of Ion Lupașcu evolved

We asked Igor Curov, the medical director of the Institute of Emergency Medicine. He verified the documents related to the case of Ion Lupașcu’s death. The official stated that the date of May 5, indicated in the press release of the Ministry of Health is wrong and that “probably, it is a mechanical mistake”. He added that in the papers he sent to the ANSP it is written that the patient was hospitalized on June 5, 07:06 p.m. and the was registered at 11:05 p.m. 

The deputy director of the Institute of Emergency Medicine considers that the family was not informed of the immediate death because the hospital did not have the contact details of the relatives.

The deputy director of the Institute of Emergency Medicine excludes any medical error. 

“No way. He had severe comorbidities. It seems to me that he had a holter attached. I remember that in the evening, we were called from the COVID Center to take the patient because he was in an extremely serious condition and the condition worsened by the minute. One of the peculiarities of COVID is that in patients with comorbidities and the elderly, the aggravation process can occur at any second. That’s the problem. That he seems normal and talks to you, but in a second the saturation disappears, in a second there is a respiratory arrest. That’s the problem. He had quite severe comorbidities, including heart disease due to the installation of the holter. In addition, he had a history of myocardial infarction that he once endured. In addition, diabetes and other pathologies,” says Igor Curov. 

“I can tell in minutes what was done, from 07:00 p.m., when the patient entered and all the drugs that were administered. He went into an extremely serious condition, practically on the threshold of the resuscitation department he was intubated and connected to artificial respiration. We couldn’t do more. Of course, there are COVID results in the file,” states the doctor, who does not believe that the man could have been infected the day before, at CRDM, but that he had the virus before June 4. 

“I would not believe that the virus could be taken on June 4. Usually, the virus does not evolve so quickly, although there are also fulminant forms. But, from what I see, from the moment of contact, even in our infected employees, four to five or even seven days pass until symptoms appear, depending on the person’s immune status. It is difficult to say what was the source of the infection,” says Igor Curov, who declares himself disappointed by the rumors in the society, about the money that would be given to people so that their relatives’ deaths would be listed as Covid-19 deaths. 

“I also heard rumors about money. I have no purpose in showing more or less deaths. This is a joke. It’s a catastrophe. People say that someone receives around 1,000 euros (20, 000 lei) to say that the relative died of COVID. This is a catastrophe,” says the deputy director of the institution.

The representatives of the Ministry of Health mentions that it was a mistake in the press release, so that Ion Lupașcu, according to the reports, was hospitalized on June 5, 2020, not on May 5, 2020, as mentioned before.

Last Week, ZdG wrote that fake news has spread on social media platforms and sparked heated debates over the deaths provoked by COVID-19.

The statements claimed that relatives of people who have died of various diseases received money after they signed documents stating that the death was caused by the new type of coronavirus.

The rumors feature doctors or policemen as those who make the alleged proposals. ZdG investigated these rumors and concluded that all of them are fake news aiming to foment people against the authorities, the healthcare workers, and the policemen, eroding the trust in basic social structures.

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