Over 100 doctors warn of deaths if voters registration commence

A collective of Doctors have warned the government about the possible danger and spread of the coronavirus if the voters registration is allowed to go into effect.

 

Below is the full statement…

 

THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF GHANA RIDGE -ACCRA

GHANA.

 

June 24, 2020

 

ATTN: MRS. JEAN MENSAH

CHAIRPERSON, THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF GHANA

Dear Madam,

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO GHANA’S ELECTORAL COMMISSION: MASS VOTER REGISTRATION WILL RESULT IN MASS DEATHS FROM COVID-19

 

We the undersigned healthcare practitioners mainly made up of medical doctors, nurses, laboratory professionals and other allied health personnel having keenly followed developments in our country in relation to COVID-19 together with our experiences as frontline actors, wish to provide some insights to guide your decision to conduct a mass voter registration exercise in the coming weeks.

 

Our intent for writing this letter is not to contest your legal mandate to compile a voters’ register, but to share with your team the potential health dangers this proposed exercise may foist on the nation especially considering the recent wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths that continue to stretch the capacities of health care facilities; we are steadily reaching breaking point.

 

As healthcare providers, we are confronted on a daily basis with increasing counts of infected patients including the critically-ill, increasing number of deaths that show no signs of abating anytime soon and a general feeling of exasperation among the populace all against a background of our pre-existing mandate to provide care to all Ghanaians, whether infected with COVID-19 or not. We have never expected our work as health professionals to be easy, but neither do we expect it to be suicidal. We wish to advise that caution is exercised in undertaking any activity that has the potential to accelerate the spread of COVID-19.

 

We believe the impending mass registration exercise falls in this category and has the potential to compromise the health and wellbeing of the population leading to unwanted pain, trauma, and possibly deaths as the past few days have shown. Our decision to write this letter is informed in no small measure by the following:

 

1. Learning from previous mass registrations exercises in the country, we are worried that a mass voters’ registration exercise will promote the gathering of people in a manner that will inadvertently undermine the principles of social distancing and therefore facilitate the community spread of the disease. Voter registration is very important for our nation’s democracy and governance, but in our considered view, nothing can be prioritized over the sanctity of human life.

 

The president was right when he said “What we do not know is how to bring people back to life”. Indeed, we cannot bring back the dead. It is this basic truth that we seek to re-echo, in lieu of preserving the lives of those governed as a first priority, and then all other things may follow. This is the essence of governance. You would agree that the voters’ registration exercise falls squarely in that category of “ALL OTHER THINGS”.

 

2. We must collectively work to ensure all lives in Ghana are firmly secured and protected against the pandemic, and this requires us to resist the temptation to carry out any activities that can potentially cost us the very lives we work hard to protect and preserve. We are deeply worried that a mass registration exercise at this time and the resultant public gatherings that will ensue will lead to a relegation of the principles of social distancing, a key weapon in mitigating this pandemic. From a public health perspective, these gatherings will only serve as a channel for the spread of the disease through person to person contact as well as contact with contaminated surfaces. The anticipated clustering of polling stations will only serve to increase the likelihood of person to person contact triggering a new wave of infections. This is inevitable. We should remember that in a factory in Tema, one “super- spreader” was the source of up to 500 new infections. There are many super-spreaders who may turn up on registration day.

 

3. Available records show that our country, Ghana is so far one of the worst affected cases of COVID-19. For instance, in the West-African sub-region, Ghana is only second to Nigeria in terms of absolute number of cumulative cases and mortality rate. As at the time of writing this letter, the Ghana Health Service records indicate a total case count of 14,568 with 95 deaths. In addition, our country is presently recording an average of over 200 COVID-19 cases daily with frightening consistency since the early part of June. The sudden rise of over 200% in the number of our citizens who have died from COVID-19 is indeed a worrying concern. These undoubtedly illustrate the depth of the quagmire our health care infrastructure is saddled with. It is our fervent hope that good science and healthy public policy will find a fruitful intersection as far as dealing with the pandemic is concerned. It is clear that our country is heading towards a major public health catastrophe with fatal ramifications for our nation if we don’t chart a different course.

 

4. As frontline health workers, we have not been spared by this pandemic. We have lost worthy members of the fraternity including Professor Plange-Rhule, Dr. Harry Boateng, Nurse Sophia Addo, and many beloved Ghanaians to this disease. All loss of life is painful, but when it hits close to home it is a totally different experience. We share in the pain of all families which have lost their loved ones, particularly whilst performing their professional duties. We presently carry a heavy burden of guilt and fear. Guilt because such deaths leave us with a feeling that we did not do enough to protect our own colleagues; and fear because we worry that we may also succumb to this contagion in the performance of our duties.

5. Currently, 25 doctors in Ashanti Region are infected by COVID-19 according to reports by the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) and over 100 nurses are infected in the same region. This situation closely mirrors what is going on in other regions.

 

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Our commitment to saving the lives of our fellow citizens should not be taken to mean we are happy and willing to die in the course of our professional roles. It is against this background that we express deep worry that an activity such as the mass registration you seek to carry out will compromise the protocols spelt out to reduce transmission and rather promote community spread of the dreaded COVID-19 ultimately making the masses victims of this disease. Our lives as healthcare workers matter too, and our prayer is for you to re-consider your decision to conduct a new voters’ registration exercise.

6. Our regular health infrastructure suffered from many vulnerabilities even before the advent of COVID-19, and the “new normal” for us is becoming unbearable. The treatment and isolation centers with their hard-working staff are particularly taking a heavy toll. Last week, the Ashanti Regional Director of Health indicated the shortage of beds in treatment and isolation centers.

 

There have been reports of some of our colleague contact-tracers abandoning their jobs on account of lack of funds to pay them. Compounding all of this is the limited number of ventilators and the limited number of qualified staff to man this equipment round the clock. For a country with only about 200 ventilators serving a population of 30 million, the worst mistake would be to treat this pandemic with soft gloves. We must learn from the experience of Burundi where political considerations were placed above the spread of COVID-19, and the resultant effect has been the demise of that country’s president and other major political personalities. Lessons from Brazil should be very instructive about the effects of disregarding social distancing protocols.

7. We fail to see the point in massing up at registration centers to register only to contract a potentially fatal disease. We worry for the EC staff and so should you too. In spite of best efforts to secure them PPEs, their absolute safety cannot be guaranteed, much less potential registrants who will not be in PPEs.

 

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There are also people (diagnosed and un-diagnosed) with many health vulnerabilities, making their situation even riskier. It is worth emphasizing that dead men and women cannot vote, and so we invite you and your team to join us in exercising a strong moral judgment in favor of respecting the lives of fellow citizens and ourselves against the pandemic. Someday when the conditions are favorable for this exercise, we will join you as professionals to carry out a successful exercise.

 

In conclusion, we wish to strongly encourage you and your office to consider a process that will minimize mass gathering and promote the principles of social distancing as well as the protocols established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

In our view, given that the existing biometric register has been used successfully to conduct significant number of elections including two presidential and parliamentary elections, two District Assembly elections since 2012 and a referendum by your outfit in 2018 to create six new regions, we find it plausible that same register will suffice for our impending elections. Those who have recently attained voting age can be accommodated in a special registration exercise with much lower risks due to the fewer numbers. Respectfully, this should stand to reason. It is our fervent prayer that this supplication to you and your office will be given favorable consideration in the interest of our dear country. Please consider this letter as an appeal to save us and other Ghanaians from COVID-19 and its wide-ranging ripple effects.

 

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For further clarification or media interest in the issues raised in this letter, please feel free to contact any of the following Dr. Pius Essandoh – 0246141460; Dr. Vishnu N.L Abayateye – 0243059985; and Dr. Gameli Aheto – 0200199755.

Thank you for the attention, and in anticipation of a reversal of your decision to compile a new voters’ register.

Yours sincerely,

__Signed__

1. Dr. Joojo Nyamekye-Baidoo

2. Dr. Vishnu N.L Abayateye

3. Dr. Melvin Agbogbatey

4. Dr. Elikplim Ahiable

5. Dr. Kekeli Adanu

6. Dr. Sefakor Adinyira

7. Dr. Henry Selase Akpaloo

8. Dr. Claude Enyam Woanyah

9. Dr. Woedem Tettey

10. Dr. Priscilla Orleans Kpodoh

11. Dr. Justicia Kyeremeh

12. Dr. Solomon Odemey

13. Dr. Leslie Issa Adam-Zakariah

14. Dr. Christian Debrah

15. Dr. Afriyie Ansah

16. Dr. Emmanuel Sogah

17. Dr. Gameli Aheto

 

18. Dr. Dennis Ansah

19. Dr. Clarence Mante

20. Dr. Barbara Fenyi

21. Dr. Samuel Sule Saa

22. Dr. Charles Adiepena

23. Dr. Jacqueline Anita Sowah

24. Dr. Pius Essandoh

25. Dr. Mordecai Owusu

26. Dr. Daniel Alifoe

27. Dr. Philip Sanjok

28. Dr Sandra Adams Sallar

29. Dr phoebe sarfo

30. Dr Alberta Azas

31. Dr Chidinma Ohanechu

32. Dr Etornam Anyigbah

33. Dr Naa Ayeley Sena Mills Tetteh

 

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34. Dr Ruth Dedei Aryeetey

35. Dr Jemima Alemonai

36. Dr Jonathan Neequaye

37. Dr Sunquist Ankamah

38. Dr Adolph Garfo

39. Dr Naa Martekuor Vanderpuye 40. Dr Mariam Shittu

41. Dr Richmond Okronipa

42. Dr Akosua Nyame-Kusi

43. Dr Christian Frimpong

44. Dr Felicia Akuribire

45. Dr Duke Agbodeka

46. Dr Samuel Horner Brew

47. Dr Tobias Ninnang

48. Dr Sheila Issahaku

49. Dr Eric Tseklu

 

50. Dr Charles Sosu

51. Dr Enaam Adanu

52. Dr. Franca Darkwa

53. Dr. Rockson Dorkeh

54. Dr. Naa Hammond

55. Dr. Ruth Clottey

56. Dr. Isaac Asirifi-Ofosu

57. Dr. Theodore Wordui

58. DrMaryAnneZuoloAalangdong 59. Dr. Elorm Daketsey

60. Dr. Safianu Alhassan

61. Dr Gideon Poku

62. Dr. Kwame Afriyie

63. Dr. Harrison Hammond

64. Dr. Francis Eshun

65. Dr. Timothy Kopah

 

66. Dr. Barbara Yebuah

67. Dr. Felix Abeyifah Bowuo

68. Dr. Abdul Samed Sulemana

69. Dr. John Kanyiri Yambah

70. Dr. Etornam K. Grentsi

71. Dr. Reuben Oppong

72. Dr. Ekow Harrison

73. Dr Jonas Afari

74. Dr Boni Moses Tay

75. Dr Efua Yankah

 

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76. Dr. David Gobapen 77. Dr. Michael Zobi 78. Dr. Roma Garner 79. Dr. Rex Bonsu

80. Dr. Afua Nkansa

 

81. Dr. Samuel Adusei

82. Dr. Anthony Ayambire

83. Dr. Collins Ntiamoah

84. Dr. Nana Wireko

85. Mr. Francis Tetteh

86. Ms Claudia Cobblah

87. Ms Sandra Okullo

88. Mr. Michael Akwetey

89. Mr Ayitey Kenneth

90. Mr. Abdul Majeed Mumuni 91. Mr. Forster Dzasimatu

92. Mr. Anyagre Jonathan

93. Mr. Asumah Yussif Kamagtey 94. Ms. Claire Bangdome

95. Ms. Belko Farila

96. Mr. Shelter Agbeko Bobie

 

97. Mr. Livingstone Dablu

98. Ms. Enukware Ekua Ofori

99. Mr. Sylvester Nakotey

100. Mr. Michael Dzodzodzi 101. Ms. Patience Gyasi 102. Mr. Leander Agohaah 103. Mr. Emmanuel Asimah 104. Ms. Princella Tebu

105. Ms. Patricia Odooley Odoi

106. Mr. Theophilus Mensah Amfo 107. Ms. Betty Nkansah Osei Mensah 108. Ms. Nadia Abdul Karim

109. Ms. Dina Woode

110. Dr. Abigail Nyarko

111. Dr. Sheba Fiadzormor

112. Ms. Lauretta Elloh-Donkor

113. Mr Kennedy Napare

 

The Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh has been detained at the University of Ghana Medical Center (UGMC) awaiting COVID-19 test results.

 

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