A young nurse who lost his leg after a Toyota Land Cruiser owned by China’s mining firm, Earl International Group Ghana Gold Limited, ran him over on a highway in Ghana’s Upper East Region is grieving in neglect.
Thomas Agombire was on the edge of that ECOWAS road when the Land Cruiser emerged from a huge dust cloud and cruised over him.
The Chinese company, also referred to as Shaanxi Mining Company Limited, did not show any concern for his welfare after the road crash.
Before the crash happened, an insurance company— RegencyNem Insurance Ghana Limited— had covered the Chinese-owned car involved in the crash with registration number WX 8888-18 under a comprehensive insurance policy, according to the Ghana Police Service.
And in accordance with that insurance policy, the insurance company was also obligated to compensate the victim. But the insurance company has not done the needful since the crash happened in 2019.
Nicholas Soyiri, a private lawyer Agombire hired in 2020, reportedly tried to work out a Gh¢300,000 compensation package for the victim.
The lawyer’s efforts yielded no results as the insurance company failed to honour its obligation, allegedly bargaining to rather pay an unwelcome Gh¢50,000 with an excuse that it was having a bankruptcy challenge at the time.
His employers—the Ghana Health Service (GHS)— are expected to have paid the now-disabled nurse what some concerned observers call “workman’s compensation” because he lost his leg in the line of duty. But the GHS authorities, too, are said to have abandoned him.
More details about the crash
When Agombire closed from his workplace— the Duusi Health Centre in the Talensi District— on Wednesday, 21 August 2019, he set off homewards on a blue TVS motorbike.
His co-workers did not expect to see him again at the workplace until the following Friday. He had spent two nights at work and was due for two off-duty days to which nurses who worked the night shift for two days at the facility were entitled.
But unbeknown to them, and to Agombire himself, a misfortune that would confine him to a hospital theatre and keep him off duty for months was minutes ahead on the road.
As he was riding home, he stumbled across a colleague— Gloria Atimbila, a newly posted community health nurse. She was footing in the same direction Agombire was heading.
He picked her up on the bike and, as the journey continued, they came to an under-construction portion of the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmakom Road where a cloud of dust had been stirred up by vehicles.
Because his pillion rider was reported to be asthmatic at the time, he parked the motorbike on the edge of the road, waiting for the dust to settle down from the air.
As they waited on the edge of that international road, a car owned by Earl International Group Ghana Gold Limited emerged from nowhere at 1: 45 pm and rammed into them.
It was a chaotic scene as alarmed eyewitnesses rushed from all directions to the spot, where the car had hit the nurses, and lifted them from a pool of blood to the Upper East Regional Hospital.
The TVS motorbike was damaged in the crash. The scene was not far from the Customs barrier at Zuarungu.
In defence, the driver, Dickson Aziadzo, said a little schoolgirl had suddenly attempted to cross his lane and that, in a bid to avoid hitting her, he lost control of the vehicle and accidentally ran over the healthcare workers.
Media Without Borders’ Edward Adeti gathered that Atimbila (the pillion rider) spent three days at the hospital receiving treatment for a dislocation of bones of the right hand at a cost borne by another nurse because, as a new employee, she was not on any salary at the time.
Her right eye was also affected by the crash. She could not see anything with it for five months. She later went for an eye surgery. The operation was done in Ghana’s capital, Accra, with a Gh¢12,000 loan she applied for.
Agombire, who was first received at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, was taken in an unconscious state to the Bawku Presbyterian Hospital on Friday, 23 August 2019, on referral.
“Further examination revealed that he had fractures of the right femur (thigh bone) and right tibia and fibula (shin bone). He had surgeries done on three occasions but the extent of the soft tissue damage was so bad that the injured limb was not solvable.
“Above-knee amputation was subsequently done to save his life. He will require a prosthesis (an artificial limb) to enhance his mobility because currently he can only ambulate with crutches,” read portions of a medical report Dr Abel Benjamin Tunni, a surgeon at the hospital, wrote.
He was discharged from the hospital on Thursday, 10 October 2019, returning home with what the medical report described as “nasty scars” on his head and face.
“When I woke up from my sleep, I said, ‘What is happening to my leg?’ And the leg was not even part of my body again because there was numbness,” Agombire told Media Without Borders, recounting what happened before the amputation.
“For more than a week, I could see people but I couldn’t talk,” he recalled.
In Agombire’s case, the Chinese company reportedly gave only Gh¢5,000 for his treatment. Agombire’s family is said to have borne more of the hospital bills in Bolgatanga and Bawku combined.
The struggles after amputation
For fear that he and his family might die from depression and hunger, Agombire did not resign himself to living at home in his condition with his unemployed wife.
He secured a transfer from his workplace at Duusi and got crutches to aid his walk to and from the nearest new workplace. The nearest workplace he got— the Tindonsobligo CHPS Compound— is situated in a community next to his area of residence, Tindonmolgo.
“Sitting in the house was not easy for me. Loneliness was killing me slowly. I called the Talensi District Director of Health to transfer me to my hometown (Tindonsobligo).
“The neglect alone made me feel I didn’t deserve to live. If I hadn’t come home, I would have committed suicide,” he said.
He was using a pair of crutches bought with his own money to walk to the facility. His main struggle on the road was not just about the distance. It was also how to cross a deep narrow valley which serves as a boundary line between Tindonmolgo and Tindonsobligo.
Until a bridge was constructed over the valley, it was difficult for him to cross it, particularly in the wet season.
To solve his challenge with the distance between his home and place of work, he saved money and bought a motorbike. The Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association, of which he is a member, supported him with Gh¢5,000, which he used to purchase an artificial limb.
“Even with the artificial leg, I’m still struggling to move with it. You can’t ride a motorbike with it. If you are not careful, you’ll get an accident.
“With my condition, I don’t need to be riding a motorbike. But I have no option than to do that,” he said.
Neglected nurse ‘angry’ with God
Months after he lost his leg, his wife, Patience, gave birth to twin boys in addition to their firstborn son, Nathaniel.
Although he appreciated the twins, he felt the timing of their birth was not suitable for him, considering the unexpected crash, the resultant amputation and the chronic neglect he suffered. Overcome by grief, he became angry with God, venting his frustration on Him.
“I got angry with God. When my wife conceived and went for a scan, they said they were twins. I said how come? How can somebody with one leg have twins again? When I can’t get up and run and do any other work to support, to take care of these two children, I was confused and started questioning God.
“When my two legs were there, I could do any other work to get additional income. And now I have only one leg and you are giving me two. How can I take care of them? I started questioning God. But my wife tried to console me that I should forget, that God knew the reason He gave me the twins, that I should take it like that, that God would still support me,” he told Media Without Borders.
Continuing, he added: “So, it was through my wife that I accepted it. But until she was delivered, I was still thinking. How am I going to take care of the children? I kept thinking.”
Later, his artificial limb began to wear out. It wore out to a point where the sawdust used in manufacturing it was leaking into his socks.
He sought support from the Upper East Regional Health Directorate for a replacement but the authorities, according to him, said there was nothing they could do about his condition.
Stalled case to proceed to court after revival
Soon after the crash in 2019, the police in the region prepared a docket on the case, ready to forward it to the Justice and Attorney-General’s Department for advice and to march the driver to court if the law office so advised.
But the docket was shelved after the police came under pressure to wait, with pleas and assurances coming from interested parties that the victim would be given the compensation due him without delay.
When Media Without Borders extended its inquiry on the matter to the police on Friday, 28 July 2023, they were surprised to hear that four years had passed without the insurance company compensating the nurse.
And while saying they expected the Chinese company to have, at least, supported the nurse in a gesture of concern when the insurance company disappointed, the police also told Media Without Borders they would proceed this time around to “the Attorney-General” with the docket without any consideration.
Shaanxi declines again to comment
Media Without Borders learns the Ghana Health Service management in the region did not visit the two nurses during and after their hospital admissions.
When contacted on Monday, 31 July, 2023, on Agombire’s condition, the Upper East Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Emmanuel Kofi Dzotsi, told Media Without Borders he was not privy to the incident. However, he said he would contact the nurse. But contrary to his statement, Dr Dzotsi has not shown any concern since July to date.
As usual of him, the Chinese company’s Public Relations Officer, Ebenezer Bognaab, did not answer the calls placed to him by Media Without Borders for answers on the company’s neglect of the nurse.
The Public Relations Officer never answered similar calls after a mineworker, Victor Abisiyine Ayine, was killed in the company’s yard in July, 2023, and after another young employee, Godfred Nabil Nongbezina, had his arm chopped off by a machine in the line of duty in May, 2023.
The insurance company could not be reached, too, as its telephone lines (0302778106 and 0577736111) were inactive when dialled.
Media Without Borders also contacted Aziadzo— the driver at the centre of the crash. He answered the call, saying he was busy at the time and promised to call back in an hour’s time.
He called back at 1:30 pm but the call was missed. Several efforts made to reach him back before press time were fruitless.
Source: Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org