The head of the Public Health Department at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital has revealed that a lack of a well-resourced holding bay at the hospital caused pandemonium among doctors on Wednesday.

Dr Philip Amoo said there was a situation in which two suspected cases of coronavirus were reported at the facility and all the doctors fled.

Describing the situation at Ghana’s biggest referral hospital yesterday as ‘malicious panic,’ Dr Amoo said some doctors on duty even began to flee the health facility for fear of getting infected.

“Yesterday I saw something very funny,” he began narrating events that took place at the hospital to the host of Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, Daniel Dadzie, on Thursday.

“There is something we call malicious panic: panic that is not founded on anything. Just people [doctors] wanting to go home…it’s sad. This one will shout, ‘hey I have little children’…and disappear from the scene. That is the reason why as soon as the epidemic thing steps in into the environment, the case needed to be moved away quickly from routine sites,” he explained the actions by the doctors.

Coronavirus scare in Ghana

Ghana could be the second West African country after Ivory Coast to report a case of the fast-spreading coronavirus infection if two foreign nationals suspected of having the disease test positive for the infection.

The patients, a Chinese and an Argentine, on Wednesday reported at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital after they developed some symptoms suspected to be coronavirus.

Health authorities say they two foreign nationals live together but travelled on different dates from China to Ghana. They had gone to test for Meningitis before they were quarantined for a suspected case of coronavirus.

China's medical staff member showing a test tube after taking sample

– There are 24,300 confirmed coronavirus cases and 490 deaths in mainland China.

The two persons have since been quarantined while their blood samples taken have been sent to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) for further analysis. Results are due by noon on Thursday.

Korle Bu not prepared

Commenting on Korle Bu’s preparedness to deal with a possible spread of the Novel Corona Virus Infection on the Super Morning Show, Dr Philip Amoo, who is also a Public Health Consultant, said the situation was sad.

He said the panic that gripped doctors at Korle Bu would have been worse.

According to him, the activation of an Epidemic Preparedness Strategy by the hospital’s management on Monday, February 3, 2020, helped to calm nerves when the two cases were reported.

– Korle Bu is the biggest referral hospital in Ghana.

He said the activation of the Epidemic Preparedness Strategy readied the whole hospital and ensured that the flow of logistics was adequately in place.

“So that helped us a lot to be able to do what we did yesterday not to put the hospital into pandemonium. However, there are key challenges. Korle Bu is a very busy environment, there are very sick people.

“When people are suspected [of having coronavirus], they are supposed to be sent away immediately to a central holding bay so by activating the system we checked on the holding bay, the holding bay is in a state of disuse now,” he revealed.

National coronavirus strategy

The Head of the Public Health Department at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital also bemoaned what he believes to be an unfortunate failure by government to include the major health facility in a national strategy to deal with the Novel Corona Virus Infection.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has designated the Ridge Hospital (Greater Accra Regional Hospital) and Tema General Hospital as initial case management centres in Accra to deal with the virus.

The Ministry said in a press release that Regional Directors across the country have also been instructed to designate holding or treatment centres in their respective regions.

“We are preparing to designate more centres in the highly populated areas of Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Also, Case Management Teams have been activated to manage cases at the designated national centres and are currently receiving orientation on the management of possible coronavirus cases, the statement said.

But speaking on the Super Morning Show, Dr Amoo said the national strategy is not comprehensive enough because Korle Bu, a key national asset, was not included in the strategy.

“Korle Bu would have to be prioritised,” he said.

He said the hospital has appealed to government to revamp the central holding bay to enable the smooth running of the hospital while the coronavirus cases are dealt with.

“Korle Bu is a national asset and certainly, no matter what happens, other hospitals could be designated as coronavirus centres but [people will certainly bring the cases to Korle Bu],” he said.

Head of the Disease Surveillance Department (DSD) of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, explained on the Super Morning Show that although Korle Bu is not a designated centre for the coronavirus, expertise from the facility has been made a key part of the strategy.

Coronavirus

So far, the new coronavirus, dubbed 2019-nCoV, has led to more than 20,000 illnesses and more than 560 deaths in China, as well as more than 200 illnesses and two deaths outside of mainland China.

The most common symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some patients also reported sore throat and runny nose while others experienced diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.