The family made the difficult decision to keep Mr Ashraf at home as medicine was arriving the next day and they felt his chances of survival would be better there than amid patients with the virus.
Concerns have been raised after the family of a 91-year-old man needing hospital treatment for a urine infection were told he would be taken to a coronavirus ward because he had one symptom of the virus.
Muhammad Ashraf’s family called for an ambulance after the great-grandfather fell unconscious at their home in Manchester.
They say arriving paramedics told them the retired shop owner – who has asthma, diabetes and COPD – would have to be treated in a ward dealing with the deadly bug at Wythenshawe Hospital because he had a high temperature.
“It would have been a death sentence,” says grandson Rehman Ashraf. “He would never have come out. I couldn’t believe what they were saying.”
But while Mr Ashraf has now made a full recovery, his family have questioned if there are other patients who have contracted the deadly bug after being unnecessarily placed on Covid wards in English hospitals.
“Have other families lost loved ones because of this?” asked Rehman.
Mr Ashraf had been visited by doctors earlier that day and told he was suffering a urine infection. But his condition deteriorated after there was a delay in the prescribed medicine arriving.
“We called an ambulance because he was in a lot of distress,” says Rehman, who lives with his grandfather in the city’s Chorlton area. “The paramedics were getting him ready to take him when I asked where he’d go, and they said to a Covid ward. I said: ‘excuse me, what?’
“But they said it was policy. Anyone that had any symptom had to go there. I was saying to them, ‘He doesn’t have Covid but he’ll catch it if you take him there’. They called the hospital and there was a long conversation with doctors but nothing changed. Keeping him at home was the most horrendous decision you could imagine because we had no idea if he’d make it through the night.”
Most hospitals are understood to have intermediary areas where all patients are tested before being placed on a Covid or none Covid ward.
Yet patients contracting the deadly virus in hospitals has not been uncommon over the last year. In September, 45 patients died at nearby Tameside Hospital after an outbreak there.
Afzal Khan, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, said he was “troubled” to have heard about the incident.
“It cannot be right for Covid-negative patients to be placed on a ward with Covid-19 positive patients, particularly if they are older or more vulnerable to the virus,” he told The Independent. “We have seen day after day the pressure the NHS is under thanks to the Government’s inability to get a grip of the virus. The Department of Health must put in place measures to ensure the safety of patients who enter hospital without Covid-19.”
He warned: “Without such measures, we could see another scandal like the government’s decision last year to release thousands of older people from hospital into care homes without a negative Covid test.”