The Head of the Pharmacy Department of the Upper East Regional Hospital, Samuel Amoateng Saffoh, has died.
Nearly everyone contacted so far on Sunday on the unexpected development is suspecting foul play, saying “he was not sick” and strongly linking it to the recent discovery of massive thefts of government medicines at the hospital by a cartel.
Saffoh, as the head of the hospital’s pharmacy, was among some top officials of the hospital who were contacted by the police for more information after Media Without Borders’ Edward Adeti uncovered thefts of drugs in tons at the facility this year.
And the veteran pharmacist was still providing more information to state investigators to help get to the bottom of the case when he was suddenly taken ill and died.
The hospital’s authorities confirmed his death to Media Without Borders on Sunday, saying he died on the night of Saturday, 23 September 2023.
The authorities added that he had worked at the hospital for five years.
Following his sudden death, a hospital source disclosed on Sunday that Saffoh had formed an audit team to take stock of all the medicines supplied by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to the regional hospital for the past two years.
The source added that Saffoh recently was digging up “more facts and further traces” and had vowed that all those found culpable would be dealt with.
“He was not sick. He suddenly said he was not feeling well. We thought it was something small. Before we knew it, he was rushed to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). He was taken to the Tamale Teaching Hospital. And that ended it.
“How can such a strong man just die like that? He has a pharmacy opposite the regional office of the Progressive People’s Party on the Bolga Stadium Road,” another source said.
His distraught colleague pharmacists have expressed shock nationwide, with one saying she spoke to him on the telephone just last night from her workplace in Accra, Ghana’s capital.
The second mysterious death linked to investigation and trial on drug thefts
On Tuesday, 15 August 2023, Mercy Alagpulinsa, a key witness who was expected to testify in court against three members of the hospital’s staff who were arrested in connection with the drug thefts, died mysteriously.
Sources say Alagpulinsa, before her sudden death, had told them that an administrator at a regional directorate of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) whose wife was among the three accused persons had requested to meet with her.
The sources quoted her to have said the administrator mentioned that he had engaged a lawyer for his accused wife and he would like to coach her as to what to tell the lawyer. She reportedly added that the administrator also requested she join the court case as a witness for his wife.
Checks by Media Without Borders show that Alagpulinsa had some information about the involvement of the wife of the administrator in the drug thefts and that she had strongly expressed her displeasure about the thefts.
The sources believe Alagpulinsa met with the administrator and they suspect she was eliminated not just because of the secret she knew but also because she might have declined the administrator’s request.
Alagpulinsa’s closest friend, who was with her on the day she died, told Media Without Borders that Alagpulinsa had visited the administrator around 12:00 pm before she died hours later.
The source said she returned around 1:00 pm, complaining of a severe stomach pain, sweating and vomiting.
And there was foam in every vomit, according to the source.
Health officials at the hospital revealed that Alagpulinsa died with a four-month pregnancy.
And they stated that there was no link between her death and the pregnancy.
The three hospital workers— Fasilat Raheem, a drug storekeeper, Bridget Banoeyelle, an assistant dispensary officer at the hospital’s pharmacy, and Raymond Asoke, a driver— were arrested in August, 2023.
Their arrests came after Media Without Borders led a team of police officers from the Divisional Police Command in Bolgatanga, the region’s capital, to a lonely and near-abandoned building where tons of drugs stolen from the hospital were always kept before they were transported to the Northern Region for sale.
The three are standing trial at the Circuit Court in Bolgatanga for stealing as well as abetment of stealing and conspiracy.
Thirty-four boxes of government drugs were retrieved from them during their arrests. Police say the accused persons have refused to name those who buy the stolen drugs from them.
Alagpulinsa was buried less than twenty-four hours after her death. The Upper East Regional Police Command is set to exhume her remains to look into the cause of her death.
Samuel Amoateng Saffoh was not just the head of the pharmacy department of the Upper East Regional Hospital. He was also the Upper East Regional Chairman of the Government Hospital Pharmacists Association (GHOSPA).
Source: Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org