Starr News has dug out some documents and tapes which strongly suggest that resources provided in response to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are being dishonestly handled by some Ghana Health Service (GHS) authorities.
The findings lend support to a series of misgivings a section of the public has expressed across the country about the manner supplies meant to safeguard and to motivate frontline healthcare staff in the wake of the pandemic are being handled amid calls for a full-scale independent probe into suspected misappropriation of the COVID-19 resources.
For instance, there have been complaints that when the GHS organises a COVID-19 workshop, the organisers also deceitfully inflate the lists of participants with names of staff who have not been invited to the COVID-19 training programme and have not partaken in the activity.
A discovery at the Upper East Regional Hospital bears witness to those complaints.
Starr News uncovered a COVID-19 workshop certificate of participation at the facility, which was boldly awarded by the organisers to a senior doctor who did not participate in the training jointly organised by the Upper East Regional Health Directorate and the Upper East Regional Hospital. The senior medical officer reportedly was not given any invite to the workshop, let alone attend it yet he was officially credited for being present and taking part in it.
The certificate has on it the awardee’s name (Dr Francis Ibrahim Betonsi) along with names of the Deputy Upper East Regional Director responsible for Public Health (Dr Josephat Nyuzaghl) and the acting Medical Director at the Upper East Regional Hospital (Dr Samuel Aborah) who appended their signatures to the fabricated certificate as trainers at the workshop.
The certificate, bearing the GHS logo, says: “This is to certify that Dr Francis Ibrahim Betonsi has participated in training on COVID-19 for staff of Regional Hospital Bolgatanga organised by Regional Health Directorate Upper East Region in collaboration with the Regional Hospital Bolgatanga.”
Among the documents discovered at the facility is also a letter the awardee doctor wrote to the hospital’s management, rejecting the COVID-19 workshop certificate on grounds of ethics and principles.
“In acknowledging and appreciating regional health authorities’ decision to [award] me with a certificate of training on COVID-19, I want to state emphatically and unequivocally that I have never been selected for any COVID-19 training organised for staff of the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital either by the Regional Hospital or in conjunction with [the] Upper East Regional Health Directorate,” Dr Betonsi said in a one-page letter under the heading “Non-acceptance and return of COVID-19 certificate as an awardee”.
He added: “I have decided to return the certificate through the Regional Hospital Management Head upon [a] second thought.”
Covid-endangered frontline healthcare workers complain of neglect
Since the dawn of the COVID-19 outbreak, individuals and organisations have delivered several batches of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Upper East Regional Hospital for the safety of frontline healthcare workers against the deadly virus.
And each time the authorities at the hospital receive the donations, they also assure the providers that the items certainly will be put to good use. But more than a few staff at the hospital, for whom the COVID-19 donations are meant, have exposed the hospital’s management in classified materials unearthed by Starr News as doing the opposite when the concerned donors are gone.
One of the tapes has a midwife saying: “I contracted coronavirus. In general terms, the hospital, what they are concerned about is chopping (stealing) money. What they are concerned about is not people; it is about chopping money. Taking care of staff is zero. I was supposed to be quarantined for two weeks. They said they would rent a guest house for me. They never called me whilst I was in isolation. Other staff contracted the virus. We were about eight in number. They took our particulars to give us the compensation we were supposed to be given. We never heard anything months after they had taken our particulars.”
The uncovered letter (which Dr Betonsi wrote) also lifted the lid on the regional hospital’s ‘cupboard’ and exposed another ‘COVID-19 skeleton’ that throws more light on the needless torments some dedicated staff, who are standing on the frontline of the war against the virus, are compelled to endure inside the hospital.
“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its early days in the region, I was the first to openly criticise happening in the Regional Hospital that exposed me to high risk of infection of the dreaded virus largely because I was neither provided with basic logistics in infection control nor personal protective equipment,” Dr Betonsi stated in his letter addressed to the hospital’s management.
He continued by saying “I was virtually seeing all patients at the Out-Patient Department (OPD) of the facility without knowledge or information of their status” and “I bemoaned the sudden disappearance and lack of visibility of the hospital COVID-19 team and its leadership in intra-institutional surveillance measures for containment that will otherwise help reduce risk of nosocomial infection from a Doctor’s or Prescriber’s perspective”.
When approached, the Deputy Upper East Regional Director of Public Health told Starr News he was a trainer at the workshop. He admitted he never saw Dr Betonsi at the training but signed the certification of participation for him because his name was included in a bale of certificates brought to him by the regional hospital’s management as the region’s Deputy Director of Public Health to sign for those who were in attendance.
The regional hospital’s acting Medical Director, who is also the hospital’s Clinical Coordinator, confirmed in a Starr News interview that he was a trainer at the workshop. He described the certification given the doctor, who did not participate, as an oversight. He also stated that Dr Betonsi was invited to the workshop— a claim which is in sharp contrast to Dr Betonsi’s firm statement in the letter he wrote, whilst returning the deceptive COVID-19 workshop certificate to the hospital’s management, that he had “never been selected for any COVID-19 training”.
When Starr News pressed further for any proof that genuinely showed that the doctor was invited to the workshop, the acting Medical Director, who said the hospital’s management accepted the certificate when the doctor rejected and returned it, replied: “Why are you asking this? I don’t remember how I can get it for you.”