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General News Wed, 6 Nov 2002

Hospital records stolen

While it has been established beyond doubt that Gladys Ampadu did not die on the operating table and as a result of a power outage, The Statesman’s investigation point to an elaborate attempt by person(s) connected to the hospital to conceal relevant facts, possibly, from hospital authorities, the Health Minister and the general public.

The paper’s own investigation into the controversial story carried by The Insight (a private daily) on 30 October points clearly to such conspiracy. What remains unclear is whether the conspirators, who are close to being identified, set to cause political mischief by using one of the government’s fiercest critics to church out a story, which later turns out to be generous on holes, or that the conspirators merely set out to hide some form of clinical negligence at the hospital.

To illustrate the point, during the weekend, the room where surgery records are stored at Ridge Hospital was broken into. The Greater Accra Regional hospital suffered another successful burglary on Tuesday. On both occasions hospital records were stolen.

It has also come to light that a sheet had been expunged from the death records of Gladys Ampadu prior to the Minister of Health holding a press conference last Thursday.

When The Statesman contacted the Acting Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr Eric Asamoa, on Tuesday he was asked if the hospital did not mislead Dr Kwaku Afriyie, the Minister of Health, on parts of the issue, his response was that the minister was provided with the information available, which indicated the 35-year old mother of four was suffering from Gastro Enteritis.

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On Saturday, Kwesi Pratt Jnr told Ghanaians on an Accra radio that if the doctor who signed the death certificate of Gladys Ampadu comes out to dispute his assertion that the mother of four died on the operating table due to a power cut, he would retract his story and offer an apology.

On Tuesday, The Statesman interviewed Dr Sakyi Buobi, the medical officer in question. While his answers to certain question were quite equivocal on the question of whether the deceased had died in the way described by The Insight story he replied. “If she had been operated upon and had died as a result of a power cut that fact would have been known to me before signing the certificate.”

His story was backed by others, including the available records of Mrs Ampadu, showing that she died at the Recovery Ward, after which a doctor was called to confirm death. The death certificate was signed on 10 June, two days after Mrs Ampadu’s death.

A discrepancy appears between the entry on the death certificate and on treatment records of Gladys Ampadu. Whereas the records at the time the woman was admitted described the symptoms as Gastro Enteritis, the death certificate registered, “suffering Pentonitis- due to (or as a consequence of) Typhoid Perforation.”

Gastro Enteritis is an illness which causes the stomach bowels to become swollen and painful. Typhoid Perforation is an enteric fever, which affects the intestines. Typhoid is an infectious disease spread by dirty water and food, causing a high body temperature, red spots on the upper body, severe pains in the bowels and sometimes death. It can lead to the perforation of the intestines.

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Normally, this would require an operation but the hospital’s medical staff say that an operation was not performed on Mrs Ampadu. Asked as to whether he, personally, operated on the woman, Dr Sakyi Buobi responded:

“I have performed several typhoid perforation cases. In fact I performed one just last week, but I don’t remember ever operating this woman.” So why is your signature on her death certificate? “That happens sometimes,” pointing to another file of a deceased patient he was holding.

Dr Sakyi Buobi added, “this is another case where I was asked to certify death, even though I had no prior contact with the patient.”

Asked if he can explain the discrepancy between the symptoms and the cause of death on the certificate, he said, he put typhoid perforation because of the evidence before him, adding that another piece of document attached to her medical records “has been torn off.”

Both Dr Sakyi Buobi and Dr Eric Asamoa admitted that Typhoid Perforation requires a surgical operation. They could not explain why in this case an operation appeared not to have been carried out, however. According to Dr Eric Asamoa, “there’s no record of post mortem.”

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While admitting that this was unusual both Dr Sakyi Buobi and Dr Asamoa could again not explain as to why the autopsy was not performed.

There are clear indications that the minister may have been misled on the medical cause of death, which was initially though to be Gastro Enteritis. But, this does no way offer support to The Insight story that her death occurred on the operating table.

But, there is no indication that the relations of the late Gladys Ampadu were misled as to the cause of death. This is because a copy of the death certificate would have been presented to the family. Findings of The Statesman’s investigation show that the controversy is far from conclusive.

Source: The Statesman