Friday, 24 April 2009

At UN, Unlicensed Doctors Give and Take Valium, Agwai's Wife Moonlights for NGO

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 24 -- In midtown Manhattan a group of largely unlicensed doctors and nurses are dispensing and in some cases taking and self-medicating with Valium, Diazepam, Demerol, Ambien and other controlled narcotics.

While anywhere else in the U.S. this would be a straight forward felony case, since it is taking place within the United Nations' compound on 42nd Street east of First Avenue, technically international territory, American authorities have yet to take action. The UN's Ethics Office, Ombudsman and Office of Internal Oversight Services have been informed, and even provided with photographs, but have done nothing.

Sources inside the UN have painted for Inner City Press a detailed picture of the operations of the UN Medical Service, housed on the 5th floor of UN headquarters, just above the Press floor. Deputy Director Serguei Oleinikov, these sources say, is both unlicensed and outside of the law. He recently signed off on the “disposal” of dozens of Valium tablets which had yet to reach the expiration date. Click here for a photo of a sample sign-out sheet, and see below.

  Tellingly, one of the unlicensed nurses is the wife of theForce Commander of the UN - African Union Hybrid Force in Darfur, Martin Luther Agwai, a Nigerian general. Ruth Martin Agwai, sources says, spends much of her time moonlighting for a non-governmental organization, the Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA). Clickhere for Mrs. Agwai's letter about NAOWA. Sources say she has used the diplomatic pouch and privileges of the Nigerian Mission to the UN in order to spirit out of the country Accutech medical equipment.

  These irregularities were brought to Inner City Press' attention after its reporting on the death of UN staff member Jesmel Navoa last month. Mr. Navoa had a stroke while working at 6:45 p.m. in the UN's publishing shop in the third sub-basement. New York's emergency services 911 was not called in a timely manner, and it took an hour for a New York City ambulance to arrive. There was no doctor on duty in the UN medical service, and none of the staff present had been trained in appropriate Life Support technique. Click here for Inner City Press' exclusive story.

  The director of the Medical Service, Brian Davey, held a staff meeting this week at which he referred to the Inner City Press story, and belatedly sought to train staff in how and when to call 911. Sources link the UN medical service to other deaths in the UN on which we will be reporting again in the future.

At UN, Diazepam and Ambien, controls not shown

   Mr. Davey's predecessor Sudershan Narula was Kofi Annan's private doctor, was kept on past retirement age and left when Annan did.  Click here for a previous Inner City Press story about Dr. Narula. Mr. Oleinikov's predecessor, a Dr. Salam, was a relative of the previous Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros Ghali, and was alleged to have mis-treated UN staff members in Africa. Currently, talk at the UN is of a tourniquet mis-applied such that a staff member has faced losing a foot to amputation. Such are the dangers of nepotism combined with unlicensed and under-supervised practice.

  The nepotism of the UN Medical Service is not limited to hiring, but extends to referral. Recently a relative, Dr. Ma, was belated taken off the UN's referral list. Previously, the husband of Kofi Annan's top aide Elizabeth Lindenmayer was said to be a doctor on the UN's referral list.

  The UN Medical Service is not supposed to be anyone's primary care giver. But despite this, controlled substances are given out, sometimes by nurses without a UN "doctor's" orders. Additionally, these UN "doctors" receive and sometimes keep sample medicines and sexual aids from pharmaceutical companies. Recently, as the US Drug Enforcement Agency has been informed of these irregularities, some forms of inventory control have belated been implemented. But well placed sources describe this as a cover-up, not a reform.

   The UN medical service is part of the Office of Human Resources Management, headed by Catherine Pollard, which in turn is part of the Department of Management, headed by Angela Kane. Inner City Press has previously covered a pattern in which the UN Pension Fund sent staff members who complained against management for mandatory mental check-ups in the medical service. There is a counter-trend in which staff members with supporters in high places are given Long Term Disability letters, to be paid without working, and these ruling are never put into a date base that can be audited.

  These uses of the Medical Service would, of course, be contrary to the Hippocratic Oath. These issues, including the unlicensed practice of medicine and dispensing of controlled narcotics go further, and are crimes.

  In some but not all cases, the UN medical staff at issue have kept up licensing in the countries they come from. Even this would not be acceptable anywhere else in New York or the United States. But sources tell Inner City Press that several have not even kept up their overseas licenses, may not even ever have had them. The medical service, they say, is shot through with nepotism, such as the hiring and lack of supervision of the wife of the UN's Darfur General, Martin Luther Agwai. The sources describe other questionable behavior by Agwai, in Darfur, that is beyond the current scope of this medical series.

  For now the questions are not only how has the UN and its medical service gotten away with this for so long, but also why the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), headed by Inga-Britt Ahlenius, did nothing when told about this. OIOS investigator Florin Postica was told, in detail, and was even provided with photographs of the controlled narcotics. Yet no action was taken. Likewise, Susan John of the UN Ethics Office, headed by Robert Benson, was told part of this troubling story, and has apparently done nothing. Ms. Ahlenius has systematically refused Press questions and has not held a briefing in many months. Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson's Office cancelled its Q&A on April 20, and resisted taking any range of questions in the days after that. Responses will be reported after they are received.

   Even the UN's Capital Master Plan can be impacted, as unlicensed staff in the UN medical service are rebelling against a planned move to a rented office space on Second Avenue and 42nd Street, over Innovation Luggage and a liquor store. There, the lack of licenses and the dispensing of controlled narcotics could, they fear, subject them to arrest. Attempts are being made to keep them within the UN compound east of First Avenue, beyond the reach of the law. Watch this site.

Sample Diazepam sign-out sheet from UN Medical Service

Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one of the reasons why donor governments are not paying their "contributions" to let the U.N. waste their monies! This is an Italian national, and former U.N. staff member writing! Hopefully, you are still wanting to publish this comment of mine! Regards.