The Health Facilities Regulatory Agency (HeFRA) has announced that it has launched an investigation into the practice of two healthcare facilities located in South Odorkor in Accra.
HeFRA’s action follows The Fourth Estate’s investigations which discovered that Francisca Quaye, alias ‘Matron Gaga’, an unlicensed midwife’s over 30 years of malpractice has resulted in numerous medical accidents, including the death of at least two babies under disturbing circumstances at the facilities within 11 months.
The Registrar of HeFRA, Dr. Philip Banor, says the agency on Tuesday dispatched a team to the New Generation Medical Centre where Ms. Quaye worked for almost three decades, and the Adam Family Specialist Clinic, where she found a new job after she was sacked from the former.
“This is pretty bad, and it is unfortunate that it went on without someone noticing and stopping it earlier than that. But once we’re involved, we’ll make the necessary referrals and we’ll discipline both the ownership and management of the facilities,” he told Joy FM on Tuesday.
Dr. Banor says should investigations establish culpability, the management and owners of the institution will be sanctioned. The sanctions include the revocation of a facility’s license, and referral of the medical professionals involved to the professional bodies, including the Medical and Dental Council for sanctions.
Where the findings border on criminality, he says the agency would recommend that Attorney-General prosecute the offenders.
In the case of Francisca Quaye, who is not a midwife and is currently on the run, he says her case would be referred to the police.
It is an offence under Section 23 of the HeFRA Act (Act 829) to provide the regulatory institution with false information concerning the premises or to fail to submit the health data required to the Ministry of Health.
Section 15b of the law allows HeFRA to deny the renewal of a health facility’s license if it has “reasonable grounds to believe that the continued operation of the practice by the licensee will create a risk to public health, public safety or is indecent.”
Dr. Banor says the agency faces many constraints which prevent it from executing its mandate, including manpower.
Although the country has more than 15,000 healthcare facilities, the agency has only 125 personnel performing HeFRA’s monitoring functions.
Hiding the unqualified
With HeFRA required to announce schedules for its visits to health facilities before actually arriving for inspections, he says the agency is at a disadvantage when it comes to detecting fake healthcare personnel on the payroll of some of the facilities because the managements tend to devise ingenious ways of hiding them.
“The question is after you leave, who do they bring in? There are some people who don’t provide the list because they know there are issues and then the law says you must have a minimum number of [healthcare professionals]. There might be eight people working there, they give you six people as qualified. But then they go and hire other people.”
When The Fourth Estate wrote to HeFRA in 2022, it indicated that Francisca Quaye was not on the roll of workers the two institutions submitted to it.
“Unless you get a report like [The Fourth Estate’s] or someone reports them, then you make unannounced visits and enter the premises and so on [to investigate],” he explains.
Asked if HeFRA needs to announce its facility visits knowing that some of the facilities have been hiring unqualified persons, he says that can only happen after the agency receives a tip-off.
“The two institutions are registered but that woman was not registered. That is the funny thing they did. They know there might be an issue.”
Currently, the facilities are obligated to pay a monitoring fee to HeFRA before officials from the agency can visit and perform their functions intended to safeguard public health.
Dr. Banor acknowledges that the current arrangement poses challenges for HEFRA in fulfilling its role because when facilities fail to pay their monitoring fee, HEFRA is unable to conduct visits.
“Unfortunately, they have to pay for us to come. They have to pay monitoring fees and we use their fees to do the monitoring,” he says.
To authenticate the credibility of healthcare facilities, he advises patients to look out for the HeFRA license displayed at the facility.
Ironically, the New Generation Medical Centre and Adams Family Specialist Clinic had their licenses displayed but still employed Francisca, who is unqualified to practice midwifery in their facilities.
The Fourth Estate’s visit
Meanwhile, When The Fourth Estate visited the two institutions on Tuesday, the New Generation Medical Centre was the busier of the two. At least two pregnant women at the facility were receiving healthcare.
There was, however, only one patient at the Adams Family Specialist Clinic.
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