Sets up committee to probe alleged health protocol breaches
President George Manneh Weah has with immediate effect, suspended Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Director General of the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL) for time indefinite.
Weah's action stemmed from from what the Executive Mansion referred to as reported breach in health and administrative protocols which guide the issuance of Coronavirus test results by NPHIL.
An Executive Mansion press release issued late Monday, August 10, 2020, is quoted as saying that Dr. Mosoka Fallah is suspended for ethical, professional and administrative lapses.
"Dr. Fallah has been asked to cooperate with the investigative committee while Dr. Patrick Kpanyan, deputy director general for NPHIL, acts as director general during the course of the probe.
With only 72 hours beginning August 10 given the committee to probe NPHIL and present to his office findings, Weah has warned that he will leave no stone unturned to deal with anyone who is found culpable of any wrong doing in his governance system of the country.
"The President has asked Dr. Linda Birch, the President of Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC), to chair the investigation committee, which will also comprise the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, Madam Mawine Diggs, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Liberia's Country representative, U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Country Representative, WHO.
Weah said the committee is charged with the responsibility, among others, to find out if there have been systemic breaches in the reporting procedure of COVID-19 results and recommend actions to be taken in order to remedy the situation.
He commended health workers across the country for their sacrifices in helping to save lives but warned that he will not allow anyone go with impunity when there are proofs that the health sector has been robbed of its benefits at any point in time while he is still President.
When contacted for his reaction to President Weah's action, Dr. Mosoka Fallah did not answer his phone.
However, he National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) has come under spotlight for acts said to be grossly incompatible with the best practices of health protocols, but Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Director General of NPHIL has distanced himself from the controversy and claimed that his signature was used for the wrong purpose.
Three officials, including Amos F. Gborie, deputy director for division of environmental and occupational health; Fahn Taweh, deputy director for national public health and laboratory and Jonathan G. Enders, chief of staff in the office of Dr. Fallah, have been suspended for declaring patients who tested positive of Coronavirus, negative and issued them certificates with Dr. Fallah's electronic signature attached.
NPHIL has the sole authority to conduct all tests relative to COVID-19 and act accordingly as per the results from the tests conducted on suspected COVID-19 patients.
"Trokon Yeabah sent the result to Amos Gborie but he (Amos) wrote negative on the result that was presented to him as postive and Jonathan Enders, my own chief of office staff, affixed my signature to it. How is this possible for an error? How can this be called an error?," Dr. Fallah asked as he responded to the Daily Observer interview, hours ahead of the President's declaration.
He said Skeeter T. Wilson, a 47 year old woman, tested positive on August 4 and her result was recorded as such but in no time her result changed from positive to negative.
Madam Wilson is said to be a Liberian American based in the U.S. but because she received a certificate bearing a negative result, she was at ease to travel back to the U.S., thanks be to the Liberia Immigration Service officers on duty at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), who quickly collaborated with health authorities and apprehended Wilson.
"This matter came to my attention on Friday, August 7. I never knew that this was happening under my nose," Dr. Fallah said with a deep sense of disappointment in his staff and deputies.
Fallah said he was informed by Amos Gborie, his deputy director for environmental and occupational health that Ms. Wilson had come abruptly to NPHIL's headquarters, seeking a COVID-19 traveler certificate, which is a requirement for leaving the country now. Due to the urgency attached, she was given the certificate.
"I immediately launched an investigation and found out that Ms. Skeeter Wilson once tested positive and was undergoing treatment but sadly, she succeeded in escaping from her treatment site and rushed to NPHIL for a certificate to be cleared at the Airport and go back to America. That's how she was served a certificate bearing a negative result, although it was incorrect," he explained.
Fallah added: "Gborie issued that certificate. He connived with even my office chief of staff, Enders and collected Skeeters' positive result from Yeabah, one of our lab technicians and changed it to negative. That's how criminal the deal was. That's what they used my electronic signature for. That's how wicked they were."
He said the investigation conduction proved that Gborie sent a letter of testimonial to his (Dr. Fallah) chief of staff, Enders, whom, without any verification, placed the electronic signature on the certificate, making it genuine and valid.
Liberia's credibility in the fight against COVID-19 is likely to be tainted due to Gborie and his colleagues' alleged actions as described by Dr. Fallah, particularly by issuing a certificate bearing a negative result, instead of positive.
Currently, Liberia has recorded 1240 cases, of which 436 cases are active. However, there have been 725 total recoveries and 79 deaths reported.
While Gborie, his colleagues at NPHIL and Ms. Wilson are still undergoing investigation by the Liberia National Police (LNP), Ms. Wilson's lawyer, Cllr. Neto Zarzar Lighe is demanding the release of his client.
The Daily Observer has gathered information that Cllr. Lighe has written Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, Minister of Health and head of the incident management system (IMS), calling on her office to prevail on the law enforcement authorities and NPHIL alike to make available his client's American passport and other traveling documents and allow her leave the country.
Lighe's letter to Dr. Jallah is said to have contained in it a request to let his client go simply because the internal error or problem at NPHIL should not be placed as a weighty matter upon his client, Wilson.
Dr. Fallah, also told the Daily Observer that he wrote Gborie and others at NPHIL the they have placed the country at a critical stage and at a dear cost.
In his letter to Gborie, a communication also in the possession of the Daily Observer, Dr. Fallah said: "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 a further spread of the disease and it will make its containment extremely difficult."
He said, as per the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL) guidelines, only people whose negative results have been verified are entitled to certificates of travel or any other business.
The incident involving Skeeter Wilson is the second of its kind as Alaric Tokpa, professor of political science at the University of Liberia, rejected claims that he had tested positive of COVID-19 when a previous result served him said he was negative.
Professor Tokpa's hullabaloo came about when he went to RIA and made attempt to travel abroad.
Liberia's strive to curtail or eliminate corruption at levels in national governance remains challenged as several individuals continue to live with the mentality that "when you have your own opportunity, take and eat yours because others did theirs before."
This is why the fabrics of the country's systems have crumbled, thereby leading to more poverty and terrible results as well as lack accountability and proper, impartial implementation of the country's laws against perpetrators of crimes.