Several squatters and staff of the Pantang hospital have no choice but to occupy uncompleted and dilapidated buildings to the detriment of their lives.
The structures have been declared unsafe after a structural integrity test by the Ministry of Health in 2021.
The structure was originally built to house staff of the hospital, but nursing students and other residents of the community have turned the dilapidated and worn-out structure into their home against warnings by the hospital management for them to vacate the building.
A visit to Pantang on March 16, 2023, showed that the structure was being used despite its terrible state.
There were various forms of cracks and leakages, the iron rods were exposed and rusted, and wires were also exposed.
All the stairs connecting the ground floor to the other floors were in total ruin. One of the stairs in the Okonkwo Building had been constructed with wood which was rotten and the structure crooked yet occupants of the building still used it unconcerned.
When asked whether or not he came to live in the building of his own free will, Delali Tomegah an environmental officer with the Pantang hospital said he was given the accommodation by the hospital.
“The walling of the hospital affected my accommodation, so the hospital authorities asked me to move into the building.”
He said he has been living in the building for 2 years and does not believe the structure is weak.
“The building is very strong, but if you look at it, you would think it isn’t. It only looks old, a bit of rehabilitation will make it brand new.”
A resident – name withheld – said, although she’s scared that the building may collapse she has no choice.
“I am scared the building may collapse on us one day, but we have nowhere to go”.
Doris Attiogbe, a mother of two described the dangerous conditions under which she lived to Citi News.
“The building soaks the water anytime it rains, I don’t know about the other tenants though. Recently the cement component along the stairs has also started falling off.”
She added that after 5 years of living in the building and countless warnings to evacuate she is now ready to move.
The Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Frank Baning refuted claims that the management of the hospital sanctioned their stay.
“I can tell you for a fact that none of them will be able to show you that they were given a letter to go and live in such a structure at least not that I am aware of, and I have been at the helm of affairs since 2016.”
He also explained that the hospital is located on Ghana’s earthquake fault lines.
“I am the one pushing for it to be demolished because I’m afraid that if you are not careful, one of these days it will collapse on staff and that’s been one of my fears. You know we fall within the fault lines. Anytime there is one of those earth tremors, we at the Pantang Hospital usually feel it here, so you can just imagine if the scale goes up a little what will happen to that building. So those are some of the fears, and we won’t ask staff to live in a place like that.”
Dr. Baning added that the fact that residents live in the building rent-free is an indication that their stay was not sanctioned by the management of the hospital.
He added they have been unable to evict them as intended because the occupants had appealed to the Ministry of Health.
“They petitioned my bosses, that is the mental health authority and the Ministry [of Health] so as far as I’m concerned, it’s been taken up by a higher institution than Pantang hospital and [it is] being dealt with. So I would say the best people to talk to would be the Ministry because they went to petition them”.
“The minister delegated the Deputy Minister of health to come here and resolve the issue, they all saw it and said no it must come down. The municipal assembly put together a team made of engineers and security people to come and take a look and the conclusion is that it should be pulled down.”