Following 18 months of thorough investigative reporting at a private health facility in Accra, The Fourth Estate has brought to light a deeply alarming case involving ‘Matron Gaga', an unlicensed midwife with a 30-year history of malpractice. This distressing revelation has exposed a series of medical mishaps, including the tragic loss of at least two newborn babies.
June 24, 2020: Kate's harrowing experience
Within the labor ward of New Generation Medical Centre, a private clinic situated in the South Odorkor Estates at Sakaman in Accra, a woman named Kate Tetteh (pseudonym), a heavily pregnant beautician, found herself in agonizing pain as her first labor contractions began. With each peak of pain, her screams intensified.
To her dismay, the nurses on duty found amusement in her distress, resulting in mocking laughter.
“I was even teased,” recalls Kate, 28, with a mixture of anger and disgust.
In that moment, all she desired was professional assistance, the kind one would expect from a healthcare facility. However, instead of support, Kate was met with ridicule at New Generation. Her plea for her fiancé and mother to be present for comfort was callously dismissed.
The ordeal escalated far beyond her expectations.
The beautician felt trapped, caught between the realms of life and death, utterly alone. The very professionals who should have provided aid became her tormentors.
“When it was time for my baby's head to emerge, the midwife responsible for my delivery was nowhere to be found.”
The individual in question was none other than Francisca Quaye, known by her alias Matron Gaga. Matron Gaga, apparently taking a brief hiatus from her culinary activities, had interrupted Kate's labor process. Holding a cooking utensil in one hand and vegetables in the other, she casually entered the labor ward to check on her patient.
“When she returned, she was holding a knife and an onion or something; I don't quite remember. I didn't see her again for about five minutes.”
Kate's ordeal, heartbreaking loss
Kate, residing in Accra, recounted her first visit to New Generation Medical Centre on June 24, 2020. According to her antenatal records, her pregnancy had been normal, with the baby displaying expected movements. Based on the scan, she was due to deliver anytime between June 19 and 30, 2020.
However, an unexpected turn of events occurred. Against established medical practices, Matron Gaga, in an alarming deviation, chose to induce labor artificially by prescribing the oral medication Cytotec to Kate, even though she still had a week left within the expected delivery timeframe. Astonishingly, after the induction, Matron Gaga instructed the confused expectant mother to return home.
Cytotec is commonly used to induce labor by softening the cervix and stimulating contractions. When administered correctly, it is generally considered safe and effective in easing labor for women in distress. However, the Reproductive Health Centre of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital issued a warning in 2011 about the potential dangers of Cytotec abuse, which can lead to infertility and even death.
Kate vividly recalls the harrowing ordeal that followed the unnecessary induction:
“I felt weak, [but Matron Gaga] told me to go home and wait until I experienced pain before returning. I took a taxi and went home, but I couldn't find any relief. The pain was unbearable. I felt the pain and called her, and she instructed me to come when the pain intensified. I endured excruciating pain from 10 am to 6 pm.”
Kate tearfully recalls how her baby's vigorous kicks, which had brought her both joy and tears during the pregnancy, suddenly ceased when the midwives began applying pressure to her abdomen. As a first-time mother, she initially thought it was normal. Little did she know the horrors that awaited her.
When the time came for her baby to be born, Kate recollects Matron Gaga using “something sharp” to perform an episiotomy and forcefully extract her baby boy.
“I didn't hear my baby cry when he was born. I expected to hear his cry because I had heard other newborns cry during antenatal visits. When I inquired about it, [Matron Gaga] said the baby was tired and that he would eventually cry.”
Immediate bonding between mother and child is crucial for the well-being of both. Typically, newborns are placed in their mothers' arms to initiate this essential connection. However, in Kate's case, this vital moment was stolen from her.
“I pleaded with [Matron Gaga] to place him on me, but within a minute, they took him away and put him on a chair,” laments the devastated beautician.
The nightmare persisted.
“I raised my head and saw a nurse cleaning my baby's nose. There was blood coming from his nose. I asked the nurse what she was doing, but they didn't want me to know what was happening.”
Rather than tending to the distressed mother, Francisca Quaye and her team congratulated her, even performing a ritualistic celebration by sprinkling powdered talc on her.
Someone was called to fetch the doctor, but Kate, consumed by pain, couldn't comprehend their conversation. However, she noticed the doctor's troubled expression. The only words she managed to catch were his question: “Why didn't you come and call me?”
Matron Gaga then accompanied the doctor outside, and upon their return to the labor ward, the doctor proceeded to “beat” the newborn baby.
“[He] was hitting my baby. I didn't understand what was happening. I thought it was normal, so I remained silent, allowing them to carry out their work,” recalls Kate.
Subsequently, she was moved to a recovery ward where the nightmare continued.
Suddenly, Kate's mother burst into tears when she entered the room. When questioned about her distress, no answer was given. The Fourth Estate has verified through poorly maintained clinic records that Kate experienced a stillbirth.
Kate's suspicions were aroused when she noticed her baby tightly wrapped. However, Matron Gaga deceitfully reassured her, claiming that the baby was being transferred to Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital due to breathing difficulties.
This was just the beginning. Kate was discharged the next day.
“I was told to go home and wait for three months before coming for my baby,” Kate shares, expressing her disbelief.
When she insisted on being with her “sick baby,” Matron Gaga assured her that she would be assisted in visiting her child at Korle-Bu that night.
That night, the unsuspecting mother endured a painful vigil filled with anticipation. However, Matron Gaga never called. Instead, she lied to Kate, claiming that she had tried to reach her during the night but found her deeply asleep.
“She said she came and called me, but I ignored her, so she went with the doctor and my baby to Korle-Bu, where they put him in a machine.”
Soon, the reason for the baby's referral changed from respiratory issues to the presence of a brain tumor. Perplexed, Kate was handed the phone to speak to a “doctor” at Korle-Bu.
With the phone on loudspeaker, the voice on the other end asked, “Are you Kate? Your baby has a brain tumor and many complications,” narrates Kate, believing that a staff member from New Generation Medical Centre had conspired with Matron Gaga to make that call.
“They said my baby had a brain tumor, and they wanted to leave him in the machine so that he would die there because if they brought him to me, it would become a burden,” explains Kate.
On the third day, Kate's worst fears were confirmed when her mother confessed that her baby had been stillborn.
To this day, nearly two years after the devastating experience, New Generation Medical Centre has not officially communicated the death of Kate's baby or provided an explanation. According to regulations, each health center in the district is required to submit monthly reports to the supervisory facility, the Ablekuma North Municipal Health Directorate. However, The Fourth Estate has discovered that these reports are often sanitized and fail to reflect the true events at private clinics.
The fake midwife, Francisca Quaye, admitted to occasionally delegating the preparation of the report to her junior staff. Dr. Ralph Obeng Owusu, the head of New Generation, conceded to The Fourth Estate that he pays little attention to such records.
According to Kate, “Even when I went for dressing and asked [Matron Gaga] if my baby was dead, she questioned who told me that and told me not to worry.
“It was later when I messaged her on WhatsApp that I learned my baby was dead, and I should forget about it.”
“My baby would have brought me immense joy because my baby's father had promised to marry me after I gave birth. Now, he couldn't marry me. I don't think I can conceive again. Perhaps I'll consider adoption or something similar.”
Complications from poor stitching
The tragic loss of her son at birth was just the beginning of Kate's ordeal at the hands of the fraudulent midwife, Francisca Quaye. In addition to the devastating loss, Kate discovered that her perineum had become severely infected due to a botched stitching procedure. The perineum, the area between the vagina and anus, is prone to tearing during childbirth. Typically, doctors or midwives close perineal tears with stitches that dissolve on their own within a couple of weeks. However, in Kate's case, the suturing was performed so poorly that the entire area became infected.
Matron Gaga instructed Kate to sit in hot water after 10 days to aid in the healing process. However, the stitches tore, resulting in a painful and enlarged wound. Kate took a picture of the infected area and sent it to Dr. Ralph Owusu, seeking assistance. Dr. Owusu was angered by the situation and questioned who was responsible for the poor stitching. Kate revealed that it was Francisca Quaye who had performed the procedure. Dr. Owusu then advised Kate to come to the clinic so they could redo the stitching.
Upon arriving at the clinic, Kate encountered an angry Matron Gaga who was upset that she had sent the picture to Dr. Owusu, implicating her in the inadequate stitching.
“She got pissed… said I wanted to get her sacked. She said the doctor insulted her that she didn't [close the perineal tear] well. They had to re-stitch it,” recalls Kate.
As a result of the complications and subsequent corrective procedures, Kate was unable to walk for the next three months. The traumatic experiences at New Generation Medical Centre have shattered many aspects of Kate's life—her baby, her relationship, and her hope of ever giving birth again. The trauma has left a lasting scar.
“My baby would have brought me a lot of joy because my baby daddy said he would marry me after I gave birth. Now, he couldn't marry me. I don't think I can give birth again. Maybe I'll adopt or something like that.”
The Midwives Association of Ghana responded to the report of Kate's induction ordeal, with the association's President, Mary Ofosu, expressing disapproval of Francisca Quaye's actions as a midwife, deeming them unconventional and inconsistent with standard midwifery practices.
According to Mary Ofosu, “A midwife cannot do induction on her own.” She highlighted that during the induction procedure, there should be a medical officer or specialist present, along with a fully equipped theater, as induction can sometimes fail. In such cases, the client needs to be transferred to the theater for further intervention. Therefore, all necessary preparations should be in place before initiating induction.
Furthermore, Mary Ofosu explained the appropriate circumstances for inducing labor, stating, “You can do induction of labor when the client is post-date. That's when the doctor can prescribe induction of labor or when there is maybe some medical condition like pregnancy-induced hypertension.” She emphasized that induction should be based on valid medical reasons and not administered without proper justification.
Regarding the lack of transparency surrounding Kate's stillbirth, Mary Ofosu asserted that it is essential for a mother who loses her child at birth to be informed before leaving the health facility.
July 6, 2021: Esther's Case
On Tuesday, July 6, 2021, Esther Baker, aged 31, went through the experience of delivering her first baby. The four hours of labor she endured were the most excruciating and longest hours of her life.
Unfortunately, Esther's delivery was accompanied by a life-threatening complication. She experienced severe bleeding, known as post-partum hemorrhage, which accounts for 24% of maternal deaths in Ghana, according to research. This condition occurs within the first 24 hours after childbirth, particularly during the period from the birth of the baby until the delivery of the placenta.
The night prior to going into labor, Esther, who worked at a savings and loans company, had a conversation with a part-time midwife who was in charge of the night shift at the New Generation Medical Centre. The midwife expressed concern about Esther not being referred to a larger hospital, considering her age and previous history of miscarriage. Esther recalls:
“She said my age and past record [with] miscarriage could cause some problems. She suggested an immediate transfer and advised against delivering at their facility.”
Given her concerns, Esther relied on her faith and prayer, hoping for a safe delivery guided by divine intervention.
That night, a midwife named Abigail reassured Esther that everything would be fine. With that assurance, Esther silently prayed that Abigail would be the one to deliver her long-awaited bundle of joy, four years into her marriage.
However, fate had different plans.
The night passed without any complications at the New Generation Medical Centre, known for its affordable care. The clinic's acceptance of the National Health Insurance scheme was particularly beneficial for economically disadvantaged patients. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinic even served as a vaccination center.
As morning arrived and Esther reached full dilation, a disagreement emerged between midwife Abigail and the clinic's matron, Francisca Quaye, turning Esther's body into a battleground. Matron Gaga, as she was known, disagreed with her staff's professional assessment of the situation and proposed an unconventional and perplexing course of action. The two engaged in an argument, but ultimately, Abigail had her say while Matron Quaye had her way.
“Abigail is a professional midwife,” observes Esther. “It seemed like something [Matron Gaga] was insisting on by force. She doesn't take her time to attend to someone in pain. She rushes you and expects you not to be too sensitive.”
From janitor to midwife
The investigations conducted by The Fourth Estate have uncovered a startling revelation: Francisca Quaye, the midwife in question, has never attended any nursing or midwifery training school.
In Ghana, becoming a recognized midwife requires completing an accredited nursing or midwifery training institution and passing an annual licensing exam conducted by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (N&MC). Any exceptions to this requirement can only be granted by the N&MC board.
It is important to note that Francisca Quaye does not possess a valid license nor has she been granted any exemptions.
Despite lacking the necessary qualifications, Francisca Quaye has been involved in delivering babies, performing episiotomies (incisions to facilitate childbirth), and stitching sutures after birth. In instances when the doctor was overwhelmed with patients, she even handled consultations for outpatient cases.
During the course of The Fourth Estate's investigations into malpractice at the New Generation Medical Centre over the past 18 months, a distressing list of medical mishaps has been uncovered.
The Fourth Estate inquiries have revealed at least two deaths occurring under disturbing circumstances while Francisca Quaye was in charge. Additionally, a new mother nearly experienced fatal hemorrhaging. Two other new mothers required urgent restitching of perineal tears due to unprofessional sutures and subsequent infections, while a newborn suffered a dislocated arm.
Moreover, Francisca Quaye has allegedly been charging fees to National Health Insurance cardholders that are not approved or authorized.
Who is Francisca Quaye, alias Matron Gaga?
Matron Gaga, also known as Francisca Quaye, claims to have gained her early experience in midwifery under her mother's guidance at the Dora Quaye Maternity Home in Takoradi, Western Region. After completing her ‘O' levels at Ebenezer Secondary School, she secured a job at the Susan Clinic, where she took on various responsibilities such as mopping, managing the front desk, and organizing paperwork.
It was during her time at the Susan Clinic that she crossed paths with Dr. Ralph Obeng Owusu, who had returned to Ghana in 1988 after working in Nigeria for seven years. Dr. Owusu ran the Susan Clinic for five years before recruiting Francisca Quaye when they eventually founded the New Generation Medical Centre in 1993.
Her versatility in handling different tasks proved useful at the new facility. Over time, she transitioned from administrative work to assisting with medical procedures, attending to pregnant women during antenatal visits, assisting with deliveries, performing episiotomies, and providing post-birth stitching. When Dr. Owusu became overwhelmed with patients, she even conducted consultations for outpatient cases.
“There were times her procedures [were off], and you would prompt her, and she'd tell you that she knew better.”
For the past 30 years, Francisca Quaye has been Dr. Owusu's loyal companion in every aspect of their partnership. However, not everyone views her as a villain, as some former patients of the New Generation Medical Centre speak highly of her care and kindness. They recall her attentiveness to their personal issues, including marriage and relationships.
“When it comes to communication, she is nice,” a midwife who briefly worked at the New Generation Medical Centre in 2020 remembers. “She has no limits to love. She pampered and even fed me before,” Kate reminisced about the days before Matron Gaga's professional incompetence strained their patient-nurse relationship.
At times, Francisca Quaye offered unconventional remedies for medical problems. One former patient recalls her recommending using water remaining in a washed fufu mortar to treat sores.
The Fourth Estate's investigations have unveiled a practice that mixes science and superstition, raising many question marks regarding her methods.
Even some junior midwives doubted her competence. “I didn't really know if she was a professional midwife. I still can't figure it out. There were times her procedures [were off], and you would prompt her, and she'd tell you that she knew better,” shared an anonymous midwife with The Fourth Estate.
The midwife also recounted an incident involving a newborn and the vernix, a creamy substance that coats babies at birth. Matron Gaga instructed her to clean the baby thoroughly, contrary to what the midwife had learned in school. The World Health Organization actually recommends not wiping off the vernix immediately after birth, as it helps keep the baby warm and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Newborns who are bathed too soon are at risk of becoming cold and developing hypothermia.
The trained midwife eventually left the facility out of fear of jeopardizing her license by working in an environment where her boss opposed best practices.
Despite not having an imposing figure, Francisca Quaye compensates with assertiveness and aggression. Former colleagues describe her as bossy, domineering, and occasionally insensitive. She does not hesitate to engage in verbal disputes, even in the presence of patients.
Some patients find her behavior harsh. With Dr. Ralph Owusu's laissez-faire approach as her supervisor, her influence has grown to the point where she can override the decisions of qualified midwives, earning her the nickname ‘Matron Gaga'.
June 14, 2021: the case of Bernice
Similar to Kate Tetteh's case, the qualified midwives at New Generation Medical Centre recognized that Bernice Owusu's cervix required slight dilation to facilitate the delivery of her baby.
The 28-year-old successfully gave birth to her first child. However, her experience with Matron Gaga was far from smooth.
“When you're in labor, you'd need someone who is patient with you. For me, I won't lie, she wasn't [patient] with me at all. She did everything as though she was in a hurry to attend to something else,” Bernice shares, referring to Francisca Quaye.
Pad left in the vagina
Before long, Bernice began to feel that something was amiss—it was another case of poorly stitched crude episiotomy. Matron Gaga was the one responsible for using the needle and sutures.
Despite receiving anesthesia, Bernice felt the pain as the needle pierced through her flesh.
“She injected the area, but I don't know how she injected it. When she was stitching and I was screaming, she didn't want me to scream. The pain was unbearable.”
Bernice took home prescribed medications and followed the dosages and instructions from Matron Gaga. However, the pain in her perineal region persisted, tormenting her sanity.
After about a week, her vaginal area started emitting a foul odor. Bernice prided herself on maintaining good personal hygiene, but upon closer inspection, she was horrified by what she discovered.
“I noticed that something was left in my vagina. The Faytex pad they used to absorb the blood was left there. Since I had never given birth before, no one told me that I had to remove it when I got home. It remained there for about a week and started to smell.”
“My mom had to check before realizing that the Faytex pad was still there and… the stitches were torn, and my cervix was open.”
She immediately contacted Abigail, the professional midwife who worked the night shift, and was advised to rush back to the clinic.
“When [Abigail] removed the object, the whole room smelled. She treated me with great care, restitched the area, and injected me in a way that I didn't feel any pain during the sewing. She did it very skillfully,” Bernice recalls.
Bernice shares that she is psychologically scarred due to the traumatic experience she went through at the hospital.
Esther Baker, like Bernice, gave birth to a healthy baby. However, it nearly cost her life.
The 35-year-old first-time mother decided to switch from Barnor Hospital in Laterbiokoshie to New Generation Medical Centre, located about five kilometers northwest, due to financial constraints. She was in her fifth month of pregnancy at the time.
During her visits, she noticed several warning signs. But when poverty conducts the orchestra, it is the poor who must nod along to the melodies, so she chose to overlook the flaws.
On July 6, 2021, Esther successfully delivered her baby, who weighed 3.7 kilograms.
Despite enduring excruciating pain, Esther recounts that the resident doctor, Dr. Ralph Owusu, dismissed her situation and left her to attend to other matters.
“About five hours after delivery, I started bleeding profusely. I fell unconscious. I don't know what went wrong.”
According to Esther's husband, Matron Gaga panicked and called for Dr. Owusu's assistance. He describes her repeatedly shouting Esther's name before giving the unconscious woman a bottle of malt in an attempt to revive her. A call to Korle-Bu for a possible referral did not yield any results. Fortunately, Esther's sister-in-law, who is a nurse, intervened and promptly arranged her transfer to the Greater Accra Regional Hospital (also known as Ridge), even as efforts were being made to resuscitate her.
Upon arrival at Ridge Hospital, the nurses from New Generation who accompanied Esther were unable to provide basic vital information when questioned by their counterparts at the referral facility.
“No records were taken of me, not even the amount of blood I had before delivery. They were just fumbling,” Esther recalls the nurses at Ridge Hospital telling her when she regained consciousness. This raised suspicions among the Ridge Hospital professionals. Before they could ascertain the cause of the emergency, the New Generation Medical Centre staff had already fled to avoid further embarrassment.
Fortunately, Esther's condition stabilized the following day. The medical team at Ridge Hospital detected and promptly discontinued a medication that had been administered incorrectly.
Furthermore, prior to delivery, Esther remembers that the team at New Generation Medical Centre had administered Cytotec “when I went for antenatal in the morning, and when I dilated, one [Cytotec pill] came out.” The doctors at Ridge suspected that to be the cause of the excessive bleeding.
There are more horrifying tales from New Generation Medical Centre that exist.
May 7, 2021: the case of Selasie
Selasie Awaworyie began experiencing labor pains at 7.45pm on May 21, 2021. However, a complication arose as the baby, weighing 4kg, became stuck in the birth canal for nearly 30 minutes.
Dr. Ralph Owusu later acknowledged to The Fourth Estate that the baby's weight of 4kg should have alerted the clinic to refer Selasie to a specialized facility.
The experiences of Kate, Esther, Bernice, and Selasie were not isolated incidents involving a single midwife. Rather, malpractice at New Generation Medical Centre was more of a common occurrence.
Zekiya Abubakari traveled 19 kilometers from Tuba, a dusty community near Kasoa in the Central Region, to receive antenatal care at the New Generation Medical Centre until she gave birth.
While her first three children were born without any complications, the fourth child brought her heartache. Zekiya had previously delivered two children in a public hospital and found the experience unsatisfactory, so she opted for private healthcare for her third and fourth children.
Zekiya gave birth within two hours of arriving at the New Generation Medical Centre, with Matron Gaga attending to her. It was just past noon.
During the delivery, Zekiya encountered difficulties, and she was informed that her child had extended her arms, obstructing a safe delivery. The resident doctor had to intervene to assist in delivering the baby.
When the baby's father held her on the first day, she cried inconsolably. The family attributed it to her adjustment to a new environment.
However, on the third day, the baby's aunt noticed that her right hand had become limp and her elbow was twisted. The baby would scream when her right arm was touched with a sponge during bath time.
“I suspected that the process of delivery caused my child's right hand to dislocate.”
When Zekiya contacted Matron Gaga to report her daughter's condition, she received a dismissive response. Matron Gaga claimed there was nothing wrong with the baby's arm and that such defects were common in newborns. She advised Zekiya to leave the hand as it was, assuring her that it would heal.
However, the baby continued to be restless and unable to sleep. She was experiencing Erb's palsy, a condition characterized by arm weakness and limited motion. It is typically caused by a physical injury during delivery or trauma to the upper arm and shoulder, which damages the network of nerves in the neck responsible for movement and sensation in the arm, hand, and fingers.
Frustrated, Zekiya challenged Matron Gaga's false reassurance, asserting that she had enough experience to recognize that there was a problem.
Seeking a second opinion and following the advice of family elders, the baby's parents consulted a traditional bonesetter known for resetting bones in accident victims.
The bonesetter, Issah Tetteh, confirmed to The Fourth Estate that little Afua's shoulder joint had become dislocated, and her elbow was twisted when she was brought to him. He began massaging her arm and applied a bandage to provide support and aid in its recovery.
“My child is improving,” Zekiya shares.
Mr. Tetteh noted that there might still be some residual pain in the arm that required additional attention.
While the investigation was ongoing, Dr. Owusu dismissed his sidekick “midwife” Matron Gaga, but Francisca Quaye (Matron Gaga) secured a new position at another healthcare facility located just three kilometers away from the New Generation Medical Centre.
The Fourth Estate managed to track her there…
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