A middle-aged woman seen as a possible key witness against three members of the Upper East Regional Hospital’s staff, who are standing a criminal trial regarding exposed thefts of government drugs, has died in mysterious circumstances.
Media Without Borders learns Mercy Alagpulinsa became ill suddenly and died around 10:00 pm on Tuesday, 15 August 2023, at the Upper East Regional Hospital.
She went to the facility around 9:00 pm, complaining of a strange stomachache, and died about an hour later while on admission.
A source at the hospital revealed that the potential witness, a few days before her passing, had mentioned that the husband of one of the accused persons had proposed to meet her to persuade her to rather testify in support of his wife.
“She told me the man said he had got a lawyer for his wife and wanted to meet her so that he would coach her what to tell the lawyer. That was the last thing I heard from her. I don’t know if she met him or not. But I know she knew some serious secrets about one of the suspects in relation to the drug theft case.
“I think she would have no choice but to meet him because the man I am talking about is an authority in the Ghana Health Service whose wife is in involved. But she maintained that she would not be comfortable doing what the man wanted her to go and do in court against the truth. Maybe, she met him and still declined the man’s request, nobody knows,” the source told Media Without Borders.
She added: “We, her close associates, suspect foul play. She wasn’t sick. She was only 16 weeks pregnant. And if it was a pregnancy-related problem, she would have been bleeding before dying. But she did not bleed. I’m a health professional. She tried to vomit at the hospital but couldn’t. She was in a serious pain. She just lay on the hospital bed and died. Just like that. We suspect she has died for trying to defend the truth and not a lie.”
Three members of the hospital’s staff were arrested by the Ghana Police Service in the first week of August, 2023, following an exposé by Media Without Borders’ Edward Adeti into thefts of government drugs at the hospital.
Adeti’s investigation on the thefts started in 2022 after residents of the Upper East Region complained about questionable drug shortages at the hospital’s pharmacy despite the Ministry of Health’s constant supply of drugs to the facility.
A warning is boldly written on the wrappings of the medicines that the drugs are not for sale.
But a cartel steals the drugs from the hospital’s stores at night, hides them inside a solitary building outside the hospital’s premises and transports them before dawn to Tamale, capital of the Northern Region, for resale.
Thirty-four boxes containing various medicines were retrieved from that building when Adeti led a team of police personnel from the Divisional Police Headquarters in Bolgatanga on Friday, 4 August, 2023, to effect the arrests of the culprits.
Several people died and the conditions of some sick people grew worse in the region as a result of chronic drug shortages caused by the cartel.
Those arrested so far are Bridget Banoeyelle, an assistant dispensary officer at the hospital’s pharmacy, Fasilat Raheem, the hospital’s storekeeper, and Raymond Asoke, a driver at the hospital.
Police say the accused persons have refused to mention the businesspersons who buy the stolen government drugs from them.
The accused hospital staff made their maiden appearance at the Circuit Court in Bolgatanga on Monday, 7 August 2023. They pleaded not guilty after the police read out charges of stealing, conspiracy and abetment of stealing against them.
The court, presided over by His Honour Sumaila Amadu, remanded them into police custody for two weeks and adjourned the case to Tuesday, 22 August 2023.
Media Without Borders also learns that the body of the late possible witness was buried at Chuchuliga, a community in the Builsa North Municipality, hours after her demise. She was a petty trader.
“She used to sell porridge. Even though she had formal education and a certificate in education, she couldn’t land a job in teaching,” another source told Media Without Borders.
Source: Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org