Dr. Thomas Anabah Questions Airport COVID-19 Testing Deal
We find it very astonishing and strange that the government of Ghana could not get a team formed from the several competent Ghanaian laboratory technologists to partner with our research institutions like the Noguchi Medical Research Institute or the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) to carry out the testing for COVID 19 on travellers arriving at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), in accordance with government’s own quest to reduce vertical infection rate, but instead had to fall on a 'suspicious Nigerian-owned company’ to execute this sensitive project.
Frontier Healthcare Service is said to have been registered in Ghana when the Covid 19 pandemic was in full force in Ghana and had compelled Ghana to close its borders to the entire world. Whoever the owners are, we do not really have a problem. But then how come the company decided to invest in Ghana in very uncertain moments, especially in a field that scientist did not have a clear pathway in the management of Covid 19. With what experience on COVID 19 was the company cloaked with that gave them a competitive edge over existing Ghanaian companies who were participating in the testing exercise in Ghana?
Currently, Ghana can proudly boast not less than 5000 laboratory personnel of various categories in public health facilities and of this number, more than 30 of them have PhD in laboratory sciences, a little over 100 with masters, over 3000 with degrees. The University for Development Studies (UDS) alone trains and certifies hundreds of Doctors in Laboratory Sciences each year for the past three years. Fortunately, some of these scientists were the ones deployed to help Noguchi and other research centres to test samples during the 'peak' of the pandemic. If for nothing at all, Noguchi is the first laboratory in Africa to isolate the DNA sequence of the coronavirus, meaning the Ghana government has the men to pick from and conduct the testing at the airport and all entry points.
Side-lining all these rich human resources and opting for a private and foreign inexperienced company to take charge of testing for coronavirus at this very important entry point of the country leaves much to be desired. It also gives room for speculations. To that extent, we demand of government to provide us with answers on how Frontier Healthcare Service Limited (FHSL) smuggled itself into the shores of Ghana to get registered during the pandemic when our borders were closed?
What experiences has FHSL company gathered in managing Covid 19 that existing Ghanaian research institutions and laboratories dotted across the country do not have? Or the contract was not awarded to them meritoriously?
If our President claimed we managed Covid 19 better than our peers on the continent, then why give the contract to a foreign company and particularly from a country with poor Covid 19 management record to do testing at the airport?
We are also told by the Deputy Health Minister, that Noguchi was and is overwhelmed with work that is why the contract was given to FHSL, so how come the company has again outsourced the contract to the overwhelmed Noguchi? We smell something fishy.
We also heard the Deputy Minister of Health on a radio programme say that, the selection of FHSL to carry out testing of coronavirus at the airport was done by the airport company. Is this a case of blame shifting? Where
was the health ministry when the process of selection was going on? This is a company that is said to have 'incompetent' management and as a result, government is giving it out to a foreign firm to manage. How come we allowed this 'incompetent' board and management to select a company to carry out a complex exercise like testing for coronavirus?
Is government aware of the embarrassment brought to Ghana from the bloated cost of the testing at the airport and its burden? There is no explanation to justify it yet.
We will like to join the calls by the Minority in Parliament to government to stop the extortion at the airport all in the name of testing for coronavirus to save the sinking image of Ghana.
Health is a basic right and much more is protection from Covid 19, hence the need for the government to act in a manner that doesn't resemble anything like profiteering from COVID 19.
We think that Ghana deserves better than this laid-back approach to critical issues.
BY DR.THOMAS W. ANABAH
African Centre for Health Policy Research and Analysis (ACH-PRA)
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