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Test scandal chokes NPHIL

-as lawyer demands response

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Liberian-born American Ms. Skeeter T. Wilson, whose COVID-19 test result has entangled the National Public Health Institute of Liberia or NPHIL in a major scandal, involving staffers tempering with patients’ tests, has completed a second test at the Institute.

Lawyer representing the legal interest of Ms Wilson told the New Dawn Monday, 10 August that authorities of NPHIL are yet to respond to a written inquiry about his client’s COVID-19 status, and is on the verge of writing a second communication to get clarity from the Institute.

The scandal, which is the second, has drawn the National Public Health Institute to serious public scrutiny here, bordering on integrity and professional standards.

At least three officials at the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) has been suspended as the entity co-heading the country’s COVID-19 fight comes under another public scrutiny after issuing a fraudulent certificate, declaring a positive patient, negative. NPHIL is the government’s institution responsible for testing probable corona virus cases.

The suspended officials are Amos F. Gborie, Deputy Director, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health; Mr. Fahn Taweh, Deputy Director, National Public Health and Reference Laboratory and Jonathan G. Ender, Chief of Office Staff to Dr. Masoka Fallah, NPHIL’s Director General.

The trio issued a negative COVID-19 traveler’s certificate to a Liberian born American Ms. Skeeter T. Wilson, who was bundled out an airplane on Sunday August 2, 2020, by Liberian Immigration Service officials after authorities discovered that the certificate which she was bearing was forged.

According to information gathered by this paper, Ms. Wilson was tested positive and through the Incident Management System (IMS) treatment protocol was informed about her positive results and placed under treatment. In less than a week, a certificate under the signature of Dr. Makosa Fallah was issued to the patient that she’s negative.

But Dr. Fallah who did not deny that his signature was on that certificate claims that it was rather his chief of office staff Jonathan G. Ender who affixed his electronic signature on the document without his knowledge.

“This matter came to my attention on Friday (August 7).” Dr. Fallah told the New Dawn on Sunday August 9. “I never even knew that this was happening under my nose.” He added.

According to him, after the matter was brought to his attention he was informed by his Deputy Amos F. Gborie, that Ms. Wilson had come abruptly to the office seeking a COVID-19 traveler certificate, which is a requirement for travelers leaving the country.

He explained that when the issue was brought to his attention he launched an investigation and discovered that the initial result of Ms. Wilson had come back positive but somehow it was changed to negative by Mr. Gborie.

Information gathered by this paper indicates that Mr. Gborie issued Ms. Wilson a negative certificate to through a proxy when her result sent to him by Mr. Trokon Yeabah, one of the Lab officials clearly stated that she was positive.

Gborie then sent a letter of testimonial to Dr. Fallah’s chief of office staff, Jonathan Enders, who without verification placed the electronic signature of Dr. Fallah on it.

The issuance of the clearance certificate to Ms. Wilson has now sparked a major controversy that could undermine the country’s credibility in its fight against the coronavirus as the lawyer representing Ms. Wilson is now claiming the release of his client.

Cllr. Neto Zarzar Lighe told the New Dawn on Sunday that he has written the IMS which ins under the chairmanship of Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah to immediately release his client and have her American passport return. Cllr. Lighe told this paper that his client cannot be responsible for an internal error within the NPHIL.

In a communication to Mr. Gborie and two others, 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 further spread of the disease making containment extremely difficult”.
He stated that as per the guidelines and best practice from NPHIL, only people with known negative results that have been verified are given a certificate of travel. He added that the serious breach of this established protocol has the propensity to derail COVID-19 containment in the country.

This is not the first time that such incident has occurred. It could be recalled that a similar situation involving Dr. Alaric Tokpah occurred where Dr. Tokpah rejected claims that he was COVID-19 positive after he had previously received certificate under the signature of Dr. Fallah informing him that he was negative.

Minutes after health officials alerted Dr. Tokpah and sought his immediate quarantine an uproar ensued prompting militants from the Student Unification Party-SUP, to deploy student-militant at his Lapkazee community to prevent health authorities from quarantining Prof. Alaric Tokpah.

-By Othello B. Garblah

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