Liberia’s Covid-19 Fight Entangled In Messy Intrigue As Head Of Public Health Institute Reportedly Throws Staffers Under The Bus
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.
The issuance of conflicting COVID-19 results in recent time has diminished confidence in the accuracy of the testing which is crippling the fight against the coronavirus in the country.
This has also caught the attention of the Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, who recently expressed similar concern to the Director-General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Dr. Mosoka Fallah.
Dr. Jallah stated: “The Incident Management System (IMS) is pleased to remind you of the system established to disseminate COVID-19 Laboratory Results to suspected patients and patients in treatment unit. From the onset of the response, the IMS has encountered difficulties to organize the dissemination of results to the targeted individuals. The nonsystematic dissemination of Laboratory results impedes compliance from the public and the IMS has observed over time that you have disseminated Laboratory results disregarding system setup by the IMS.
“Example is the result you gave to Professor Alaric Tokpah. Such results has caused embarrassment to the Response and has led to further decline of public trust in the testing system.”
“The Incident Management System (IMS) is pleased to remind you of the system established to disseminate COVID-19 Laboratory Results to suspected patients and patients in treatment unit. From the onset of the response, the IMS has encountered difficulties to organize the dissemination of results to the targeted individuals. The nonsystematic dissemination of Laboratory results impedes compliance from the public and the IMS has observed over time that you have disseminated Laboratory results disregarding system setup by the IMS. Example is the result you gave to Professor Alaric Tokpah. Such results has caused embarrassment to the Response and has led to further decline of public trust in the testing system.”– Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, Minister of Health, Liberia.
Dr. Fallah’s Response
Dr. Fallah in his reply to the health minister insisted that he has always followed the procedure relative to handling and releasing COVID-19 results.
He stated that “There were instances when you, Dr. [Francis] Kateh and I were asked to give positive results and we did this diligently. When we decided to shift it to Montserrado County Health for positive results and negative results through the Psychosocial and Mental Health Pillar. I have diligently followed this protocol except under some very extenuating situations”.
According to him, NPHIL recruited 5th year medical students to direct medical response for the 14 Military and further asked them to give out negative results, while few of he, Dr. Jallah and Dr. Kateh give the positive results, but When the IMS decided to change from the students to the Psychosocial/Mental Health, he told the 5th year medical students to discontinue and since over three months they are not releasing results.
Dr. Fallah: “Since the decision to shift the release of positive and negative results to the Montserrado County Health Team and the Psychosocial Pillar respectively, I have had nothing to do with the release of laboratory results, but have assisted to prevent crises created by the long delayed in the release of results or the misplacement of results as well as for highly political or security results and finally to ensure that travelers get their result in a timely fashion so that the IMS is not embarrassed.”
In the Alaric Tokpah stiaution, Dr. Fallah expressed: “Let me now provide you with the context on the issue of Dr. Alaric Tokpah. I will indicate to you that I was not releasing his laboratory result to him but trying to get him his traveler medical approval certificate as we have always being doing. My goal was to quietly avoid a big embarrassment to the IMS for his missed flight because we did not provide him with his travel medical certificate. I would have quietly done this as I have been doing had I not being misled by the Laboratory Pillar lead, Mr. Fahn Taweh.”
“There were instances when you, Dr. [Francis] Kateh and I were asked to give positive results and we did this diligently. When, we decided to shift it to Montserrado County Health for positive results and negative results through the Psychosocial and Mental Health Pillar. I have diligently followed this protocol except under some very extenuating situations”.– Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Director-General, NPHIL
See full response of Dr. Fallah’s response to the health minister’s letter here.
Mr. Fallah has often been at the center of the controversy of controversial COVID-19 results.
He told FrontPageAfrica over the weekend that three persons have been suspended and subjected to investigation over the wrongful issuance of travel certificate to a patient who tested positive for COVID-19.
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. Wilson’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.
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. Fallah 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.
However, sources in the health sector informed FrontPageAfrica that NPHIL has not been following the standard procedure for the issuance of travel certificate after a patient tests negative for COVID-19.
The IMS has made a resolution that Covid-19 results must come from the Lab via an email with a code to each patient name for the purpose of confidentiality. The result, if negative, must be sent to the patient via a certificate upon request and said certificate must be jointly signed by the Chief Medical Officer of Liberia who is the deputy IMS chair for curative services, the IMS chair who happens to be the Minister of Health and the Director-General of NPHIL. Of recent, according to the source, Dr. Fallah has been signing alone and issuing letters to travelers, thus bypassing the use of the certificate.