The District Court in Bolgatanga has granted a request filed by police in the Upper East Region to exhume the remains of Mercy Alagpulinsa, a key witness to thefts of government drugs at the Upper East Regional Hospital, to determine the cause of her death.
A post-mortem examination has become an option because of the circumstances that preceded her death on Tuesday, 15 August 2023.
Before she died, Media Without Borders’ Edward Adeti had investigated and reported how a cartel was stealing tons of drugs at the regional hospital, hoarding the stolen medicines in a private building outside the hospital’s premises and transporting them to the Northern Region for sale.
The investigation led to the arrests of three members of the cartel on Friday, 4 August 2023, and Saturday, 5 August 2023.
Thirty-four boxes of medicines, which were supplied to the hospital by the Ministry of Health, were recovered from them during the arrests.
The three include Fasilat Raheem, a drug storekeeper at the hospital, Bridget Banoeyelle, an assistant dispensary officer at the hospital’s pharmacy, and Raymond Asoke, a driver at the hospital.
On Monday, 7 August 2023, the three accused persons made their first appearance at the Circuit Court in Bolgatanga, where they were remanded into police custody for two weeks.
While they were in custody, a husband to one of the accused persons, who is said to be an administrator of a Ghana Health Service (GHS) regional directorate, reportedly contacted Alagpulinsa, requesting to meet with her because she knew about the involvement of his wife in the thievery.
It was learned that the administrator told Alagpulinsa he wanted her to join the case as a witness for his accused wife and the proposed meeting would offer him the opportunity to prepare her, as a would-be witness, as to what to tell a lawyer he had engaged to defend his wife.
A source, who was very close to Alagpulinsa, told Media Without Borders that Alagpulinsa left her home around 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 15 August 2023, to meet with the administrator. The source said Alagpulinsa returned home about an hour later, complaining of a severe stomach pain while sweating and vomiting foamy substances.
She died a few hours later at the Upper East Regional Hospital. Her body was taken to her hometown, Chuchuliga in the Builsa North Municipality, the following day and buried the same day.
Alagpulinsa died with a four-month pregnancy at the time police were considering featuring her in the case as a witness for the state.
Many believe she was poisoned not just because of the secret she knew about the drug thefts but also probably because she may have declined to testify in favour of the cartel.
About a month after Alagpulinsa’s sudden death, the head of the hospital’s pharmacy department, Samuel Amoateng Saffoh, died suddenly, too, after he vowed to get to the bottom of the cartel’s business.
And autopsy report is said to have revealed that the pharmacist, who until his death was also the Upper East Regional Chairman of the Government Hospital Pharmacists Association (GHOSPA), was poisoned.
The three accused persons are said have declined to name the other members of the cartel to the police.
They reappeared in court on Wednesday, 18 October 2023. The case was adjourned to Wednesday, 15 November 2023.
Source: Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org