Government has conceded that the communication on what was later found out to be an outbreak of H1N1 influenza in Kumasi Academy was lagging.
Information Minister, Mustapha Hamid admitted to conflicting information from the various government officials who had responsibility over the institutions involved, resulting in the panic among the public.
Four students of the second cycle institution died within a week after they fell ill to a “strange” disease while over 40 others were admitted at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Hospital.
Before that, 7 other students had died between April and November, after suffering similar ailment, according to reports.
Failure by health authorities to identify the exact cause of death of the students and communicate same, led to confrontations between school authorities and parents who had gone to the school to demand the release of their children and take them home, with some reading spiritual meanings into the deaths.
Nerves calmed a bit after health officials began administering vaccines to the students to curtail the spread of the disease.
The situation was further complicated by the contradictory statements from the Education and Health Ministries as to whether or not to shut the school down due to the outbreak. While the Deputy Education Minister, Dr. Osei Adutwum announced the school would be closed, the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu said the opposite.
After several tests of blood samples, the Ministry confirmed, H1N1, commonly called ‘Swine Flu’ was to blame for the deaths at KUMACA.
Speaking Thursday, December 14 on Joy FM, Information Minister confessed that there was differing information from the agencies that were directly concerned.
“I agree with you that there was some panic and in the midst of the panic there was some conflicting communication,” Mr. Hamid told the host of the Super Morning Show, Kojo Yankson.
He added, however, that the Health Ministry subsequently assumed leadership role which has seen things "straightened up a bit”.
Mr. Hamid stated further that government will henceforth adhere strictly to the established protocol in communicating to the public during such situations including how to handle communication regarding the current outbreak of meningitis in some senior high schools across the country.
This includes plans to resource and re-designate the abandoned Ebola Centre in Accra, to serve as the national emergency response centre to deal with such situations.
“If today there was a national health crisis, that centre is going to be used to deal with it,” the Information Minister assured.