Undercover journalist ‘doctor’ probes deaths at Ghana hospital

An unspecified number of lives have been lost at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Ghana’s second largest, as a result of equipment break-down.  Doctors at the hospital, at a point, refused to admit patients in critical condition because life-support equipment at the Intensive Care Unit had not been functioning for over four months.

Nhyira FM’s Ohemeng Tawiah’s under-cover investigations at the ICU revealed six people died within four days because they could not get the attention they needed.

The deceased had suffered brain injuries sustained in accidents as well as other conditions which could have easily been managed.

The sixth patient who died was a middle- aged nursing mother of a one-month-old baby.
She had been referred to Komfo Anokye from a smaller facility only to pass away an hour later because life-support equipment was unavailble.

Ohemeng Tawiah visited both the ICU and operating theater 48-times under the guise of doctor.

He revealed nine out of eleven ventilators at the ICU had broken down, compelling patients to queue up for treatment on the two active ones.

Doctors at the hospital were unwilling to perform any surgery for fear that the condition of patients might worsen in their hands, under such circumstance. Management of the hospital however insisted they could not be held responsible for the deaths.

Public Relations Officer, Kwame Frimpong, told Nhyira News “this Intensive Care Unit has been encountering some challenges… It must be stressed that Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital is not directly responsible for the repair of the equipment at the ICU Centre. The maintenance of the equipment is in the hands of a private company that has been contracted by the Ministry of Health.”

Mr. Frimpong said management had drawn the attention of the contractor, Gertech Technologies, to the broken down machines. He apologized to the families of those who had died and patients who had been turned away.

Investigation revealed Ghana’s Ministry of Health awarded a five- year maintenance contract to Germany-based Gertech Technologies in 2010. The same contractor had constructed the Accident and Emergency Centre of the hospital in 2005, and handed it over in 2009.

Further inquiries on the matter indicated that management of the hospital had, earlier,  registered its displeasure at the contractor’s work.

The investigations prompted an emergency management meeting between the Board of the Komfo Anokye Hospital and officials of the Ministry of Health to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, hospital authorities called for abrogation of the of the management and maintenance contract.

Country Representative of Gertech, John Mlainic, declined to comment on calls to cancel the deal.

A former Chief Executive of Komfo Anokye Hospital, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, who was a brain behind the establishment of the Accident and Emergency Center, however, warned the option of ending the contract could have dire consequences on KATH. He blamed developments at the hospital on what he described as strained relationship between management and the contractor.

The eleven-member board, chaired by Dr. Louis Bartels Charles de Bordes, would not have its way when (now) sacked Health Minister, Joseph Yieleh Chireh, called for review  of the  maintenance contract .

That  was to ensure prompt attention, in future, to the broken down equipment at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

“So how many patients died as a result of equipment breakdown?

That was a question a colleague journalist posed to hospital officials at a face-saving press conference to explain management effort at addressing the problem.

Officials, with a pile of documents, including correspondence to the Ministry of Health, maintained they had done no wrong.

Chief Executive, Professor Ohene Adjei, replied “we (hospital officials) haven’t said someone has died”.

Medical Director, Dr. Baffuor Awuah’s answer was enough to shake the foundations of the hospital.

“It is medically unethical to reveal the number of patients who have died as a result of the broken down ventilators”.

He continued, “with or without ventilators, patients die at the hospital”.
And some journalists turned unto me, “so the hospital officials are asking us to do our own calculations if six persons have died in four days, how many have died in more than four months”.

A month later, the Intensive Care Unit resumed normal operations following restoration of the broken down life-support machines.

Personnel of Gertech Technology, maintenance contractors, completed repair work, with four patients provided with support immediately after.

Head of the Anesthesia and Intensive Care Directorate, Dr. Gabriel Boakye, told me doctors were excited at the turn of events.

“They (doctors) are happy now with no agitations so far, though they were unhappy at first”.

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