Liberia: Looming Confidence Crisis over MoH, NPHIL Credibility in COVID-19 Fight
MONROVIA – Three persons at the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) have been suspended and placed under investigation in relation to conflicting COVID-19 test results and travel certificate issued.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
Ms. Skeeter Tannie Wilson, a citizen of the United States of America was barred from returning to her home country on August 2 over COVID-19 clearance. It was the same day she had given a specimen for COVID-19 test after a relative who also came from the U.S.A along with her for a funeral died here in Liberia of suspected coronavirus.
Communication from her lawyer to Health Minister Dr. Wilhemina Jallah disclosed that Ms. Wison’s American passport was seized, she was harassed and intimidated by officers of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) allegedly on the orders of the Justice Minister, Frank Musah Dean.
FrontPageAfrica has obtained a copy of the letter from Cllr. Neto Leigh to Dr. Jallah which disclosed that while making efforts to retrieve his client’s passport, she visited the Ministry of Health on August 4 to ascertain the status of her result, but there was no one in the Ministry to talk to at the time. However, she was later informed verbally by the authorities that her result had come out positive, hence she was quarantined at the Union Quarantine Center in Monrovia.
“In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it is very dangerous to the country for confirmed positive cases to be given results as negative. This will cause further spread of the disease making containment extremely difficult”.– Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Director-General, NPHIL
Surprisingly, while in quarantine, Ms. Wilson through a representative received her formal result and clearance from NPHIL on August 6 declaring her COVID-19 negative and that she was fit to travel.
To that effect, her lawyer is seeking her immediate release from the quarantine center and her passport immediately returned to her.
This is the second of such controversial COVID-19 test results in less than a month.
Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Director of NPHIL informed FrontPageAfrica that the issuance of clearance to Ms. Wilson was an internal error for which several persons have been suspended, pending investigation.
Those suspended include Thomas F. Gborie, Deputy Director, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health; Mr. Fahn Taweh, Deputy Director, National Public Health and Reference Laboratory and Jonathan G. Ender, Chief of Office Staff.
In his communication to Mr. Gborie, Dr. Fallah indicated that “In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it is very dangerous to the country for confirmed positive cases to be given results as negative. This will cause further spread of the disease making containment extremely difficult”.
He stated that as per the guidelines and best practice from NPHIL, only people with known negative results that have been verified are given a certificate of travel.
He added that the serious breach of this established protocol has the propensity to derail COVID-19 containment in the country.
Dr. Fallah stated that on August 6, 2020, Mr. Gborie issued a negative certificate to Ms. Wilson through a proxy when her result sent to him by Mr. Trokon Yeabah clearly stated that she was positive.
Gborie then sent a letter of testimonial to Dr. Fallah’s chief of office staff, Jonathan Enders, who without verification placed the electronic signature of Dr. Fallah on it.
Mr. Fahn Taweh, Deputy Director, National Public Health and Reference Laboratory is also facing similar inquiry for also providing conflicting COVID-19 test results to Dr. Alaric Tokpah.
The investigative team comprises Deputy Director-General for Administration, Dr. Patrick Kpanyen, the Acting Deputy Director-General for Technical Services. Mr. Thomas Nagbe, the Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, Mr. Philip Bemah, and the legal adviser of NPHIL., Attorney Joel Theroway.
Two persons from the Ministry of Health’s legal department are also expected to join the investigative team.