Exposé: Hospital boss uses drug truck as tipper

Truck is returned quietly to the hospital premises after daily use. Photo: Edward Adeti

Workers at the Upper East Regional Hospital are clamouring for the recall of a transferred administrator to answer charges over an official vehicle he misused whilst in office.

The former administrator of the hospital, George Atampugre, who was transferred recently to the Tamale Teaching Hospital in the Northern region, is at the receiving end of severe tongue-lashing for using an official truck, with registration number GV 2887-14, which is meant for the distribution of drugs for a private construction project.

“That blue vehicle is not a tipper truck. Based on the transport policy of the Ghana Health Service, it is only meant for conveying drugs and sometimes the management releases it when a Ghana Health Service staffer is going on transfer to help convey delicate belongings to the new post. But for several days, he (the administrator) used it secretly to carry blocks, iron rods, sand and other building materials for the construction of his house. It is not a tipper truck. I remember, one of our drivers was caught in Tamale carrying sand and he was dismissed,” one of the concerned workers, who did not want to be named, told Starr News.

Another senior member of staff at the facility spoke anonymously, saying: “Even if you want the vehicle, there are request forms you are to fill as to what purpose you want it (the truck) for. He didn’t do that. He did not use his own money to fuel the truck. It was the hospital’s money, state funds, that fuelled it. He was instructing drivers to carry blocks, bags of cement, wood and water with a truck meant for carrying drugs. The project is somewhere inside Zuarungu.”

He added: “Imagine the distance the vehicle has to travel to and fro, the wear and tear, carrying things from Bolga. He did not do any maintenance. And what happens when the truck is needed for carrying drugs to where they are needed at the time the truck is carrying sand and cement? He should be called back here to account for the official fuel used and the maintenance cost.”

Starr News investigates

Checks run by Starr News for a number of days confirmed mismanagement of the truck by the newly relocated administrator.

Starr News’ camera captured the truck on a number of occasions being loaded with sand fetched from an empty, fenced plot near a guest house at Tindonsobligo, not far from the premises of A1 Radio, a media outlet in Bolgatanga, the regional capital. The loaded truck was spotted a number of times driven towards Zuarungu, about 8 kilometres away, emptied and returned to the premises of the regional hospital.

Truck meant for distribution of drugs turns tipper. Photo: Edward Adeti

Authorities at the hospital, when contacted, confirmed the administrator used the truck wrongly and claimed that they had put a stop to the misuse. Whilst it remains unclear if the transfer of the administrator to the Tamale Teaching Hospital has any link with the abuse of the hospital’s resources, there are concerns he may still sneakily influence the use of the truck to continue the unfinished project.

“When it came to our attention, we informed the [junior] administrator to inform me whenever he had to do something like that. I wasn’t around when that happened. He has left. He was on leave before he left. I don’t know the communications between him and the [junior] administrator since then. I will ask the Transport Officer if he has more information on that,” Medical Director at the hospital, Dr. Patrick Atubra, told Starr News.

Accused administrator admits wrong

The reassigned administrator, speaking to Starr News, confessed he used the vehicle for inappropriate purposes. But, whilst wondering why the agitations at the hospital against the abuse did not come up until after his transfer was effected, he debunked the allegations that he used official fuel for his private project.

“It happened. I’m not denying that it happened. But how did they know that I did not use my own money to fuel the truck? Certainly not. That is not the case. All these things happened when I was there; nobody spoke about them. You can read meanings into it,” Mr. Atampugre, who served as the hospital’s administrator for about a decade, retorted.

Regional hospital faces public remand

Only last week, the Upper East Regional Health Directorate claimed that five vehicles- including one car, one Mitsubishi Pajero, one V8 and two pickups – had disappeared from the directorate’s central pool.

Public complaints are also rife that customer relations are poor at the regional hospital, even with patients’ confidential medical records said to be loosely finding their way into unauthorised hands outside the hospital premises.

“I have personally been witness to poor staff attitude which shows the quality of care still has a lot to do. The managers of our health facilities also create lapses for such staff to give the rest of us a bad name and there are classical examples. Our biggest health facility, the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital, has been in the news of late and a number of activities agreed with the management for improvement in customer relations have gone unimplemented thus leaving no one in doubt that the public after all are right when they complain about poor service delivery,” the Upper East Regional Director of Health, Dr. Kofi Issah, told stakeholders including UNICEF at a midyear performance review programme in Bolgatanga.

He added: “As at this morning, the hospital has been asked to explain why action should not be taken against them for not implementing activities according to their own timeliness. We expect management of the hospital to sit up and turn things around. The release of confidential information about patients and processes providing quality care by certain health staff is a worrying trend and we urge health staff and members of the public that this trend points to a grave danger and the gradual erosion of trust in our services.”

Source: Ghana/starrfmonline.com/103.5FM/Edward Adeti

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