Brazilian medical provider has been accused of giving Covid-19 patients unproven medicines and conducting research on older people without the consent of their family. Families claim that the allegations are linked to death which could have been avoided.
Katia Castilho is haunted by her grief. In March, Norberto, her father, was admitted to a public hospital in São Paulo with Covid-19. Brazil was hard hit by the pandemic and had 4,000 deaths per day.
Ms Castilho’s mother also started to experience symptoms several days later. Irene had, like Norberto’s mother, access to Prevent Senior private healthcare, which is one of the largest in the country, serving more than half a billion customers.
Castilho families contacted the company to receive a so-called Covid Kit, which consisted of hydroxychloroquine (azithromycin) and ivermectin. Although there was no scientific evidence, the family received the kit.
Irene was getting worse. Ms Castilho, her sister and two other sisters decided that their mother should be admitted to Prevent Senior Hospital. However, Irene, surprise! Ms Castilho claims that Irene was not examined and sent home.
Overnight, her condition worsened. Irene struggled to breathe by morning even though she had an oxygen tube. Her family returned to the hospital and finally she was admitted.
Norberto also died that day.
In a rush, he was buried without any rites. The hearse, however, waited for one of Castilho’s sisters to bid her farewells before returning and picking up other bodies.
According to Ms Castilho, Irene was in the hospital’s small ward while she was being treated. Staff rarely visited her there. Sisters took turns making sure that the oxygen mask did not slip off.
Ms Castilho noticed one day that Irene was being given thick solutions by nurses. It was flutamide which is used to fight prostate cancer, she claims. Flutamide could cause liver failure in some people, which Irene survived. They claim that they were the ones who told Irene not to be given flutamide.
Ms Castilho states, “I was so angry by everything happening with my father that I didn’t seek out a physician to discuss this.” “Then I realized that my mom was getting worse.”
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Irene was in the hospital nearly 10 days before she was transferred to intensive care. She began to have organ failures and developed deep-vein embolisis. After three weeks she was infected in the hospital with an infection that is common among patients. She died.
They had only 20 minutes left to spend one last moment with their mother. Norberto was also buried with her ashes. Irene was cremated.
Ms Castilho said that the intense events began to ease and “the penny started to drop” regarding her mother’s treatment. I began to think about things. I could not sleep. It was like I was going back through a tape and realising the mistakes.
Ms Castilho says that Irene’s negligence started when she was given the “Covid Kit” and continues as Irene is treated with unproven medication instead of expensive, intensive care.
“My mom really believed in me.” [Prevent Senior]. She said that she was nervous and asked me to contact them in order to get information about when her “Covid Kit” would arrive. “She couldn’t have imagined being a guineapig and dying in those hands.
More people are now dying as a result of the company’s poor medical care.
Inquiries by the Senate into the handling of the pandemic have revealed that Covid-19 had been accused of trying to support unproven treatments linked with President Jair Bolsonaro.
Former patient Tadeu Frederico De Andrade (65 years old) testified that he was also given the “Covid Kit”, and received flutamide. According to his family, doctors tried to transfer him to palliative medicine without their permission. He said, “I am a survivor in this macabre plot.”
Bruna Morato was a lawyer who represented 12 whistleblowers. She told the inquiry that doctors were threatened with firing if they didn’t agree with unproven drugs. In order to conceal the extent of the problem, the company is accused of failing mention Covid-19 death in the records of patients.
Prevent Senior claimed in statements to BBC that Irene (and Tadeu) “received all clinical and professional support.” It also stated that they never employed treatments which were contrary to ethical standards or to reduce costs.
According to the company, allegations made against them at the Senate inquiry were “unfounded” as well as “a public lynching.” It also claimed that it did not fire employees because they were technical convicts.
Pedro Batista was the CEO of Covid-19. He admitted to senators that Covid-19 and other infectious substances were removed from patients’ files after just two weeks. However, he denies that the company tested any unproven drug on patients.
The company is under investigation by federal prosecutors, the police, and a separate inquiry by São Paulo state lawmakers.
The controversy surrounding the case is rife with political controversy. It has been criticized for allowing Covid-19 to be used in the United States, and the federal government was blamed.
Inquiry also found that Bolsonaro’s administration refused repeated requests from Pfizer for 70 million vaccine doses. On Tuesday next week, the final report of the inquiry will be published. It could allege that the president committed serious misconduct during his responses to the pandemic which caused more than 600,000.
Ms. Castilho said that her family is “devastated”.
According to her, “The day that my father died was the one when he should have received his first vaccine.” I lost my mom and dad due to a virus that already exists.
“Denying science kills, but when you think of all the money and interests involved… I can’t remain silent.”
* Vinicius Lemos in São Paulo contributed to this report