Note: The article has been written and published with the prior consent of the family. Names have been kept confidential for the family’s privacy.
Update: On September 6, the mother and her son were discharged on Day 7 after she tested positive for Covid-19. They are reunited and are at home.
A Hong Kong resident has been separated from her newborn at a public hospital in the city because she tested positive for Covid-19 on the day she gave birth. However, the mother is disputing the hospital’s decision because she got different results on two PCR tests at two different hospitals on the same evening — the first was negative and the second was positive.
Two negative RAT and PCR tests and a sudden positive result
The mother did her first PCR and rapid antigen tests (RAT) at the accident and emergency department of a hospital on the evening of August 30. Her RAT was negative, and she was admitted, but quickly transferred to another public hospital as the doctors thought she may deliver soon. At the second hospital, she did her second RAT and PCR of the day and was admitted as her RAT was negative.
While she was in labour, the hospital staff told the mother that she tested positive on her PCR test for Covid-19, and she was moved to an isolated delivery room. Once her baby was born, they covered the mother with blue pads, placed the baby on her chest briefly and then took him away. That was the last time she saw her baby.
“I waited for hours to be transferred to the first isolation ward. I demanded another test because I really didn’t know how come I became positive. I was thinking it might be a mistake, so I wanted to take another test. But nothing happened. I was frustrated and helpless and didn’t know what to do,” the mother told The HK HUB.
Isolation ward with confirmed positive patients
Her frustrations mounted when she was moved to a second isolation ward with other confirmed Covid-19 patients. She got access to her phone and was able to open her eHealth app, only to find that the result of her first PCR test at the previous hospital was negative. However, the results of her second PCR test at her current hospital — which she had done only a few hours later — were not yet available, so she had only the hospital staff’s word to go by.
She kept demanding another PCR test, especially because her husband’s PCR tests in the run-up to the delivery and during both hospital admissions were all negative. What she finds most telling is that her baby has also tested negative on all tests since he was born.
The mother suspects that she might have been a “repeat positive” case as she was previously infected with the virus in February 2022. However, in Hong Kong, exceptions may only be made for Covid-19 patients who test positive for the virus on a PCR test within three months of their last infection. She eventually got the PCR test she requested on September 2 and the results were positive — which does not surprise her because by then she had been exposed to symptomatic Covid-19 patients in a ward for three days.
In the meantime, the hospital staff informed the mother that they needed to send her to an isolation facility as she was taking up space in a ward meant for senior citizens who test positive for the virus. “I was negotiating with the doctor if I could just stay here so I can still send milk to my son because that’s the only way I can take care of him from afar,” she says, adding that since the isolation facility they planned to send her to has no fridge or breast pump, she would have to discard any milk that she managed to express herself.
Things changed when a friend posted about her situation on a Hong Kong social media group. “On September 2, they suddenly told me that I can stay here, so I can send milk to my baby. They started to cater to some of my needs, [such as bringing] cold packs and hot pads. I think it’s because of the help of the mom who posted about my situation on Facebook. She helped me get through to the patients’ liaison, and then the chief of quarantine emailed me saying that they’re looking into my current situation,” says the mother, adding that she had to hand express milk as she did not get a breast pump until Day 4 after she tested positive, despite repeatedly asking for one.
Parents can’t see their son, baby in isolation for 7 days
However, the hospital will not budge on their policy of prohibiting the mother from seeing her son. Since the delivery, she has only seen pictures of him that the nursing staff send her. Her husband has not been allowed to see the baby either as he is considered a close contact of a positive Covid-19 patient. And since the baby was born when his mother was found positive, he needs to undergo seven days’ isolation.
The mother will now only get to see her baby on Day 7 after she tested positive on her initial PCR test, which will be on Tuesday, September 5. That is, provided she tests negative on her Day 6 and 7 RATs, which are the main criteria for a Covid-19 patient to be discharged in Hong Kong.
“It has been very frustrating and hard for me not to see and hold my baby. I was crying and blaming myself so bad for being positive. Why didn’t they do another 24-hour PCR test [earlier]? Is it because they didn’t follow the WHO protocol about [not separating] newborns and new mothers? Why did they have to take him away from me immediately?” she asks.
Header image credits: nenovbrothers via Canva