‘Next to Die’: Work on 1,000-bed KATH block stopped in 2009

Explanations have been trickling in on how a 1,000-bed facility began in 1974 remains uncompleted, contributing to the deaths of at least four babies each day at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH).

Former Chief Executive of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital Dr. Nsiah Asare has explained that work on the project re-started in 2001 but ended in 2008 when the NPP lost power.

According to him, the government of the National Democratic Congress which took over the reins of government failed to continue the project during its eight years in power.

“If it had been continued from 2009 we wouldn’t have been where we are today”, he said on joint AM Show/Joy FM Super Morning Show Tuesday.

The building is to house Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Child Health Center Departments.

A Joy News Special Assignment documentary has thrown light on the heart-breaking state of healthcare at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. In the video, nursing mothers could be seen lined up in a corridor, breastfeeding.

The documentary by Joy News’s Seth Kwame Boateng highlighted overflowing maternity wards where one baby cot takes as many as eight newborn babies. Expectant mothers lie on benches and sit on chairs for long hours because there are no beds for delivery. 

A grieving father Mr. Owusu Ansah revealed on the show, he lost two babies at KATH after his newly borns got infected. “So who will be the next to die?” he said and testified to seeing bed bugs crawling around baby cots.

A 2015 UNICEF report put Ghana’s newborn mortality rate at 32 out of 1,000 babies. It means these newborns die before they reach 28 days.

The shocking state of affairs at the largest hospital in the Ashanti region led Multimedia brands Joy News TV and Joy FM to raise questions about how fatal overcrowding obtains in the hospital while a spacious facility believed to be the solution remains uncompleted.

The outdoor session of the AM and Super Morning Show was held at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. The makeshift studio was set up close to the uncompleted hospital block which dominates the skyline.

A 65-year old retired nurse who worked at KATH for 36 years told Joy News’ Seth Kwame Boateng, “I was in second year doing midwifery when the sod was cut. We were all excited when the building was about to come up.”

Joining public frustration following the airing of the documentary, a KATH staff told the Joy FM and Joy News show, “I was about one-year old when the project started. I have come to work here and still the building has not been completed”.

Speaking on Joy News joint programme, Dr Nsiah Asare who is now the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service gave a historical account of the construction work on the building.

He said  work stalled for 25 years after the Supreme Military Council was overthrown in a coup d’etat in 1979 by Flt. Lt  Jerry John Rawlings.

It was not until 1999 that National Democratic Congress government under Rawlings made a budgetary allocation to the project.

But the government lost power in the 2000 general elections.

Enter a new government of the New Patriotic Party in 2001, its first Health minister was Dr. Winfred Richard Anane who had worked at KATH and witnessed the frustrating over-crowding at the referral facility.

According to Dr. Nsiah Asare who was then CEO, he teamed up with the minister and they both expressed a burning desire to finish that then 27-year old project.

The two re-designed the project, expanding it to take 1,000-beds. It was going to be “the biggest hospital in Ghana and I am sure even the whole of Africa”, he said.

According to him they planned to finish the building in two years using an expected $50million from the Spanish government.

Before the funds would come, the KATH CEO said he used budgetary allocations from the Health ministry to construct some more floors and pay off the military whose lands had been acquired for the expanded project.

“Unfortunately Dr. Anane was reshuffled to the Ministry of Roads and Highways in  March 2003”, he lamented a change in political head at the Health ministry.

Soon after, the $50m Spanish protocol cash arrived under the new minister Dr. Kwaku Afriyie. There was a ‘fight’ over what the money should be used for, he said.

Dr. Nsiah Asare said a Director of the Ministry of Health told him ‘KATH cannot use all the money’ on the building. Intense lobbying meant the money was split across several competing demands in the health sector.

Since then, KATH has been using its budgetary allocation to continue a very capital intesive project.

An investment such as the hospital block requires a special funding facility usually a loan or a grant to considerably hasten its completion, he explained.

Alas for eight years with no special financing for the project, “we used budgetary allocation to do five floors”, he said.

During KATH’s 50th anniversary, Dr. Nsiah Asare confessed he “intentionally” inserted into President Kufuor’s speech, a pledge to complete the project.

Government later gave KATH, GHC2.5M out of a projected GHC5m to continue the work.

The building is only 30% of the cost of completing the block. He said 70% of the funding is for installing equipment and mechanical engineering. But even the 30% is not completed after 43years.

According to the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, no money from the Health ministry has been allocated to continue the work since 2009.

He said in 2009, GHC10m was expected from NHIS to continue with this building.”I don’t believe the money came’.

Some funds from Ghana’s acquired oil money was also expected to be devoted to the project. “I don’t think it came… I have not seen any serious work on this building since 2009”.

At 43 years and still uncompleted, the Director-General said two groups are “now knocking at our doors to finish this building”.