EXCLUSIVE: Ghana’s COVID 19 death more than what GHS reports
Documents available to theghanareport.com indicate that the reported number of deaths associated with the coronavirus is higher than what is being reported by government.
The documents revealed that the Ashanti regional reported cases should be 38 and not 14 as contained in the National Situation Report of the Ghana Health Service.
Ghana’s Covid-19 death figure of 54, which was announced by the President in his 11th Broadcast to the Nation last Sunday June 14th, was calculated using 14 deaths from Ashanti Region. This was despite the fact that the Ashanti Region sent a figure of 38 deaths on the 13th of June, a day before the president addressed the nation.
Giving an update on the COVID 19 cases, the President said “understandably, much focus has been placed on the rise in the total number of confirmed cases. As at midnight of 13th June, the total number of positives, cumulatively, stands at eleven thousand, nine hundred and sixty-four (11,964), out of the two hundred and fifty-four thousand three hundred and thirty-one (254,331), tests conducted”.
“We have a total of four thousand, two hundred and fifty-eight (4,258) patients who have fully recovered, have been discharged, and are now free of the virus. So, our scrutiny, in effect, must be on the number of active cases, i.e. people who remain on our books as still positive”, the President said.
The President continued, “Mercifully for us, by the grace of God, the number of COVID-19 related deaths, sad though each death is, continues to remain very low, one of the lowest in Africa and the world. With fifty-four (54) deaths currently reported by the Ghana Health Service thus far in Ghana, the ratio of deaths to positive cases stands at 0.4%, compared to the global average of 5.5%, and the African average of 2.6%.”
Evidence available to theghanareport.com, however, indicates that the figure the president mentioned as the number of Covid-19 related deaths in the country may be inaccurate.
The figures announced by the president are taken from the Covid-19 situation reports from the 16 regions and compiled by the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
GHS Report on Ashanti
The Ashanti Situation Report (SITREP No. 65), dated June 13, 2020, stated that the “total number of confirmed COVID- 19 cases for the Region is 2,205 with 38 deaths and 682 recoveries. Case fatality rate is 1.7%.” The report said five (5) people died of Covid-19 that day (June 13).
The June 13, 2020 update on the official website of the Ghana Health Service, which President Akufo-Addo cited in his address in relation to the Ashanti Region had 2,205 confirmed cases of Covid-19. This figure is consistent with the June 13, 2020 SITREP from from the Ashanti Region.
In the same Ashanti Region Situation Report, the number of deaths recorded in the Ashanti Region was thirty-eight (38). However, the Ghana Health Service quoted only 14 deaths from the Ashanti Region in its Nation Situation Report dated June 13, 2020.
This means the number of deaths from Ashanti Region has been reduced by 24.
In the June 13, 2020 Ghana Covid-19 National Situation Report (SITREP No. 88) prepared by the Ghana Health Service, the cumulative number of deaths for the Greater Accra Region is stated as 34. The Western Region recorded one (1) cumulative death; Volta Region, 2; Upper East, 2; and North East, one (1) cumulative death.
This means the total number of deaths as of the time President Nana Akufo-Addo made his nation broadcast should have been the 38 from Ashanti Region plus the 34 from the Greater Accra and the six (6) from the other four regions.
This bring the number of deaths so far to 78, and not 54.
Also, the government’s update on June 12 stated that the total number of deaths was 54. The same figure (54) was quoted for June 13, which was announced by the President on June 14.
However, on June 13 alone, five (5) persons died in the Ashanti Region of Covid-19 as reported by the Ghana Health Service in the region.
A source close to the Ashanti Regional Directorate of the Ghana Health Service told theghanareport.com that the discrepancy in the figures reported from the region and the one reported by the government has been a concern for some time now.
When theghanareport.com contacted Ashanti Regional Director of Health Services, Dr. Emmanuel Tinkorang, he confirmed that the number of deaths from the Ashanti Region as June 13, 2020 was 38, and not 14.
He explained that they at the lower level often send the information to the headquarters, but added that some auditing of the figures is done in Accra before they are published, a reason the Ashanti Region’s figures might have a higher figure than what is reported.
Manasseh Azure Awuni: I’ve realised that the other figures you sent were quoted correctly, but the one on the deaths was reduced. Does the headquarters in Accra audit the all the figures you send or they audit only the number of death:
Dr. Emmanuel Tinkorang: They audit only the number of deaths, not all. On the deaths they want to know more about the cases.
Manasseh Azure Awuni: If someone tests positive for Covid-19 and dies or dies before they are confirmed Covid-19 positive, can the audit in Accra change that fact?
Dr. Emmanuel Tenkorang: No, it cannot change.
Manasseh Azure Awuni: So if the fact that the persons died of Covid-19 related complications cannot change, why doesn’t the government go ahead to announce the figure you send?
Dr. Emmanuel Tenkorang: They will have to know certain details so that they can explain. And it takes time.
The National Covid-19 SITREPs from June 7, to June 13, all quoted 14 as the number of deaths from the Ashanti Region, meanwhile the Ashanti Region passed the 14 much earlier than that.
Meanwhile the deaths in the greater Accra Region were updated twice within the period. When asked why the Ashanti Region should be held at 14 for about a month, Dr. Tinkorang said that information should be sought from the headquarters.
A source in the health sector said the quality of COVID-19 healthcare delivery in the Ashanti Region may not be as robust as compared to Accra so it doesn’t come as a surprise the number of deaths that are recorded in the region.
A source close to government, however, told this reporter (Manasseh Azure Awuni) that the discrepancy that exists between the number of deaths received from Ashanti Regional Directorate of the Ghana Health Service and the number the government puts out has been noted. It added that the explanation given is that the government tries to independently verifies the number of deaths.
A public health expert and Fellow of the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD), Kwame Sarpong Asiedu, has told theghanareport.com this explanation is untenable.
He said the Covid-19 deaths are recorded at health facilities and treatment centres so once the person tests positive and dies, it should be reported as such and therefore the was no need for any independent verification since it would not change the fact that the person died of Covid-19.
He noted that the Ashanti Region, just like any other region, has public health experts and doctors who deal with issues of Covid-19 and report to the government, through the headquarters of the Ghana Health Service.
The Ashanti Region Situation Report is composed of a team of health personnel led by the Ashanti Regional Director of Health Services, Dr. Emmanuel Tinkorang. The rest are; Dr. Yaw Ofori Yeboah, DDPH; Dr Rita Larsen-Reindorf, DDCC; Kennedy Nartey, RHIO; and Solomon Boakye, DCO.
“Why would the government accept the number of confirmed cases and other information from the Ashanti Region but question the number of deaths?” Kwame Sarpong Asiedu asked.
“It is disingenuous for anyone to ask whether the person died of covid or from Covid. What is counted as a Covid-19 related death is when the person tests positive before their death, or after their death because sometimes the testing delays and the persons passes away before it is confirmed,” Kwame Sarpong Asiedu said.
“In the strictest terms, no one dies from Covid-19. Like HIV/AIDs, Covid-19 compromises your immune system and allows other diseases to attack and kill you.
“For instance, the Burundian president died of heart attack but he had Covid-19, which attacked the immune system and probably shut some vital organs from functioning properly.”
He said even if the government claimed to be independently verifying the figures, how long did it take to do so.
“That day (13th June) the Ashanti Region reported 38 deaths, it said it recorded 5 deaths. This means it had reported 33 deaths already. As we speak, the government is still reporting 14 deaths from Ashanti, how long would it take them to get the true figures out?”
The Ashanti Region as of June 13, 2020 had a total of 2,205 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while the Greater Accra Region had a total of 7,138 cases.
What this means is that if Ashanti Region recorded 38 deaths, the Greater Accra Region with about three times Ashanti Region’s case count could record more.
Theghanareport.com is unable to get the situation reports of the other regions apart from the Ashanti Region, but Kwame Sarpong Asiedu said the government was capable of treating those figures like the Ashanti Region figures.
Already, there have been complaints about the failure of the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, to be transparent about his Covid-19 status until the media reported it before the President confirmed it.
Also, when mandatory tests were conducted by the Parliament of Ghana and some MPs and staff of the legislature tested positive, parliament denied media reports that its members and staff had tested positive. This forced the Minority Chief Whip and MP for Asawase, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, to go public and said parliament had lied. Parliament eventually admitted that its members tested positive.
Ghana has been praised internationally for its handling of Covid-19 but with evidence that government officials may be untruthful about the figures, this would not only undermine the nation’s credibility but has the potential to affect the fight back home.