Despite billions of taxpayers' cedis expended, the unserious attitude of Ghana's health authorities on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, has once again manifested itself in what appears to be the "export" of cases of the deadly virus to the eastern Caribbean island of Barbados.
What otherwise should have been a noble venture akin to Cuba's medical brigade, where thousands of medical doctors are sent to foreign countries to augment existing human resources under tidy diplomatic arrangements, Ghanaian authorities, failed to do due diligence on the COVID-19 status of some 95 nurses before flying them out, and they are now the source of the disease and worry to the holiday island.
The country's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, on Saturday announced at a press conference that of 248 tests conducted on Friday, July 31, 2020, 12 cases returned positive of COVID-19, adding nine of the people infected, had come from a group of nurses who arrived from Ghana on Thursday, July 30, 2020.
All of the nurses went into 14-days quarantine on arrival in Barbados, after Friday's tests conducted by the Best Dos-Santos Public Health Laboratory, the Barbados media reported.
The embarrassing media report, has led to some Ghanaians demanding to know from those in-charge of Ghana's healthcare system what stringent COVID-19 protocols were put in place for those traveling out of the country, since it remains unclear if the 95 nurses ahead of their trip, had gone through any thorough testing regime.
From the report, it is obvious the Ghanaian authorities, including Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service, have not done much since June, when the European Union flagged the country and refused to add it in the list of nations allowed in the bloc, when European borders were opened on July 1. It only some selected 15 countries.
The Foreign Ministers of Ghana and Barbados, on Friday, November 15, 2019, at Jubilee House, on behalf of the governments and peoples of their respective countries, signed an agreement for the recruitment of a total of one hundred and twenty (120) nurses from Ghana to complement the staffing needs of the island nation.
The agreement was signed, when the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, paid a courtesy call on the President of the Republic, Nana Akufo-Addo, as part of her official visit to Ghana. But it appears nothing thorough was done to make the arrangement work for the mutual benefit of the two countries.
The 95 Ghanaian nurses arrived in Barbados last Thursday, July 30, 2020 through a chartered flight, Azores Airlines on a special programme between the two governments.They are made up of 49 women and 46 men, who have signed on to assist with healthcare in the Caribbean country.
They were met by the Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, newly-installed Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins and Executive Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland, with salutes and elbow bumps.
The Health Minister, said while their arrival was a long time in coming, he was glad they had finally landed.
"These nurses will be working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as well as the primary healthcare sector, that is the Geriatric Hospitals and polyclinics," he said.
In addition to the nine Ghanaian nurses – 95 arrived in Barbados on Thursday – there was one Barbadian woman who returned on July 29, a male visitor who arrived on July 30 and a Barbadian man who arrived from the United Kingdom with a negative test, but was positive when he was tested again to travel.
"We are still investigating the circumstances of the last case. This will require extensive contact tracing, which the population is so aware that the public health teams do on a daily basis," George said, adding monitoring and surveillance would be increased at designated facilities.
Chief Medical Officer of Barbados, Dr. Kenneth George, said all of them were showing no symptoms and "are likely to be in the recovery phase", with only one person's indicators pointing to being in the acute phase.
He said everyone who tested positive was immediately placed in isolation at Harrison's Point.
The objective of the Agreement between Ghana and Barbados, was to provide the framework for the provision of the nurses by the Republic of Ghana to Barbados, taking cognisance of the existing commitment of Barbados to accepted international workforce policies and practices as well as the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Code of Ethics for nurses.
The scope of services and responsibilities, include Ghana providing registered nurses to Barbados with a level of expertise as agreed to by both countries, with Barbados providing Ghanaian nurses safe and secure working conditions for professional practice, medical treatment where needed.
Remuneration is commensurate with the terms and conditions of Barbadian local registered Nurses. Barbados is also to provide professional support to Ghanaian nurses to comply with the guidelines and rules of the Nursing Council of Barbados.
Reports from the Jubilee House, had at the time claimed that, a total of 150 short-listed candidates have undergone interviews, from which 120 will be chosen.
The qualified nurses possess a minimum of three years' experience, with specialities in the following areas: critical care, cardiac catheterisation, emergency room, operating theatre, ophthalmology.
It will be recalled that on 15th June, 2019, during an official visit to Barbados, as part of activities to promote the declaration of 2019 as the Year of Return, President Akufo-Addo, in principle, agreed to a request by Prime Minister Mottley to send some nurses to work in a number of medical facilities in Barbados.
Addressing a press conference in the aftermath of the bilateral discussions, and with Barbados facing an acute nursing shortage, the Barbadian Prime Minister stated that "we have indicated that we are searching for just under 400 nurses, so it is not a small number, and we really do believe that this is a wonderful opportunity of co-operation between our two countries."
In addition, she noted that there was also an initial promise to secure the nurses, and provide joint education programmes going forward, all in an attempt to secure Barbados' healthcare sector.
On his part, President Akufo-Addo indicated that "we have a surplus of nurses in Ghana, and placing them all in our public health system is one of my headaches. There have been a lot (of nurses) produced, which, for several years, we have not been able to do anything with."
He continued, "So, I am going back. I will be back in Accra on Monday, and, the week after, the Prime Minister will hear from me on this matter of nurses."
Barbados is an eastern Caribbean island and an independent British Commonwealth nation. Bridgetown, the capital, is a cruise-ship port with colonial buildings and Nidhe Israel, a synagogue founded in 1654. Around the island are beaches, botanical gardens, the Harrison's Cave formation, and 17th-century plantation houses like St. Nicholas Abbey. Local traditions include afternoon tea and cricket, the national sport.