Criminals take over Pantang Hospital

There seems to be no end in sight for illegalities, unruliness and general insecurity on the premises of the Pantang Hospital in the Greater Accra Region.

The health facility, which accommodates nursing and midwifery training institutions, basic schools and other state facilities, has now become a safe haven for criminals and social misfits such as thieves, weed smokers and squatters.

On a daily basis, they tramp the 344-acre hospital land in their numbers to unleash mayhem on staff, patients, students and other patrons of the health facility.

These criminal activities, which sometimes take place under the nose of the law enforcers, include thievery and burglary at gunpoint, destruction of hospital property and prostitution, mainly orchestrated by some squatters who are illegally occupying parts of the hospital land.

Information gathered by the Daily Graphic indicated that the hospital management was working closely with the La Nkwantanang-Madina Municipal Assembly (LaNMMA) to clear all illegal structures and criminals from the premises of the facility to bring sanity and order within the hospital community.

Construction of the hospital was started by the first President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, to originally serve as a Pan-African mental health village to advance specialised mental healthcare service to patients in Ghana and beyond.

After Dr Nkrumah’s overthrow, works were not continued to its architectural completion. Like many other facilities and amenities, the fate of the finely designed health centre, the second mental health facility in the country after the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, was left in limbo.

When it was commissioned in 1975, by the then Head of State, General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, there were 79 structures made up of completed and uncompleted staff bungalows, medical wards and administration blocks, but without a wall to provide security for the occupants.

This phenomenon provided squatters, including criminals and social misfits, the free range to settle and foment trouble on the premises of the hospital and its environs.

Graphic monitoring

For three months, spanning January to March this year, when the Daily Graphic team monitored activities at the hospital, it observed that the entrance had been entirely taken over by squatters who had erected wooden structures that served as their homes and shops.

Activities of the squatters at the entrance gave a scary picture of a certain level of hopelessness lying beyond the gates.

Major parts of the 1,500-metre stretch wall recently built by the Ministry of Health (MoH) have been pulled down by unknown persons in what is suspected to be a land dispute.

Despite a police post mounted in front of the hospital, several unruly acts were evident.

Some of these included reported theft of the hospital’s water meters, computers, airconditioner external units, health equipment, as well as frequent robbery of personal belongings of staff and students.

Within the vicinity, locations or places within the hospital serving as hideouts for prostitutes, weed sales joints, mechanic shops, often causing nuisance to the safety of the health centre, were commonly known to the average resident.

Some residents said those happenings had consistently put most of the workers, patients, students and other stakeholders of the hospital in fear as they went about their daily activities.

Major hindrance

The Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Frank Baning, told the Daily Graphic in Accra that insecurity had been a major hindrance to efficient healthcare delivery at the hospital.

“We have these squatters with kiosks scattered all over, which is a major security situation for us at the hospital.

“Security-wise, we are not safe at this point; day in, day out, you will hear reports that one of the staff or students has been robbed at knife or gunpoint, and this is a major trouble to us,” he said.

He said the hospital had started collaborating with the LaNMMA to clear the premises of all the illegal structures as part of measures to curb the insecurity on the premises.

He said that a team made up of officials of the hospital and the assembly had already held two meetings to strategise on how to eject the squatters and remove their illegal structures from the premises.

LaNMMA’s position

Corroborating the views of the medical director, the Chief Executive of LaNMMA, Jennifer Dede Adjabeng, said the municipal assembly was playing a crucial role to bring sanity to the hospital and its environs by removing all the unauthorised structures from the premises of the health facility.

“This issue has been ongoing for a while now, and like the medical director rightly said, the two institutions (Pantang and LaNMMA) are working together to ensure sanity at the hospital.

“You will realise that some of the unauthorised structures have already been marked to provide occupants the opportunity to remove their property by themselves before the assembly intervenes to clear them from the premises,” she said.

She explained that parts of the premises had already been cleared, but there were other parts that were still occupied by squatters, including the frontage, due to ligation regarding ownership of the land.

She said due to the ligation, the assembly could only wait for a final determination in court to take action.

Mrs Adjabeng added that LaNMMA was engaging the people who were claiming ownership of the land and the management of the hospital to bring sanity to the hospital premises.