The management of Frontiers Healthcare Services Limited, the company in charge of COVID-19 testing at the Kotoka International Airport, has laid off staff it engaged for the testing effective today, March 31, 2022.
This follows President Akufo-Addo’s announcement on limiting testing at the airport to the unvaccinated in his address on Sunday, March 27, 2022.
In a memo sent to the staff of Frontiers, the management of the institution indicated it had been forced to take such measures due to a recent review of the covid-19 testing protocols at the KIA.
“Management regrets to inform staff that effective 31st March 2022, the current employment terms of engagement would be brought to an end due to recent national policy changes beyond our control,” the memo stated.
The memo also indicated that a selected number of staff would be interviewed and reengaged to continue to provide testing services to the public to ensure the company’s operations do not halt.
Workers of the company were, therefore, directed to hand over all items belonging to the company before April 1, 2022, as a requirement for receiving their final benefits.
Outrageous charges for antigen test
On September 1, 2020, Ghana announced that it was charging every passenger arriving at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) $150 for a mandatory antigen test.
Subsequently, the government was compelled to reduce the cost of testing from $150 to $50 after ECOWAS deliberation on the matter. But this reduction was for only ECOWAS citizens. Despite the public outcry, the government did not reduce the amount charged non-ECOWAS citizens.
The Fourth Estate’s investigations last year revealed that Frontiers was charging the highest amount for antigen testing in the country.
Less than six kilometers away from the KIA, where Frontiers was charging $150, the LEDing laboratory was charging only $16 (GHc100) for the COVID-19 antigen test. One could get test results within 30 minutes of testing.
Outside the airport, The Fourth Estate visited 10 antigen testing centers. None of them charged above $41 for the antigen test. Below are the labs and their charges:
From September to December 2020, the Ghana Health Service announced that Frontiers Healthcare Services Limited made $17.1 million from the mandatory testing at the airport. Out of this, Ghana’s share was $1.1million as fees for the space rented to the company at the airport.
Licensing issues with Frontiers
Frontiers was handpicked through a shady contract, details of which six ministers denied knowledge of when they appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament for vetting.
The government has said it had accredited 40 private laboratories to conduct PCR and antigen tests for COVID-19. But the government settled for an unlicensed company incorporated three weeks before the president’s announcement.
Although all new healthcare facilities are to be licensed before they start operating as stipulated in the Health Facilities Regulatory Authority (HeFRA) law, the minister of Health, Mr Agyemang Manu told the Appointments Committee that he did not know that Frontiers did not fulfill that legal requirement before it became operational. He was, however, quick to add that it was remedied when he got to know.
The Frontiers Healthcare Services was eventually given a provisional license on November 3, 2020, two months and two days after the reopening of the airport.
Fraud at Covid-19 Labs
In an investigation conducted by The Fourth Estate last year, a staff of Frontiers was caught on camera demanding and receiving ₵900 to produce fake COVID-19 test certificates for two undercover agents. He produced the results without taking samples or testing the undercover agents.
The management of Frontiers Healthcare Services, in a meeting with The Fourth Estate, had denied any involvement of its staff in the issuance of negative COVID-19 test certificates. The company, however, did not comment when the documentary was published with evidence that implicated their staff.
Sources within the company have told The Fourth Estate that Frontiers dismissed the said employee after the publication.