Anger after ‘wrongfully dismissed’ doctor is left to die

General News of Wednesday, 21 March 2018



Dr. Francis Betonsi Ibrahim has complained bitterly about the ‘inhumane’ treatment meted out to him

A delay in reinstating Dr. Francis Betonsi Ibrahim, who has been wallowing in abject grief since he was “wrongfully dismissed” in 2012, has angered a section of Ghanaians, with the furious citizens saying authorities of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) will be held responsible if the medical doctor eventually dies from frustration.

“My brother, I’m suffering. I’m dying. They are killing me softly. I have been reduced to an animal with a fur and a tail. They have ganged up against me and their whole intention is to destroy me, or possibly eliminate me from the surface of the earth. It’s so obvious to me. This is an inhumane dismissal meted out to me. If I die today, people will not know the truth.

“The truth is staring at them but it’s being turned into falsehood because the whole aim is to protect people who have abused me just because they are superiors. There will come a time when junior doctors will start taking guns, weapons, against senior colleagues because a selective system is backing abusive senior doctors against innocent junior doctors. Mark my words,” the doctor grieved in an interview with Starr News this week.

Nothing has changed since Starr News reported on the agony of the gifted medical practitioner who is widely compared to America’s Ben Carson and acclaimed as mentionable were Ghana to name just five of her good doctors today.

The last time Starr News visited the home of the 40-year-old doctor at Navrongo, a busy town in the Upper East region, there was nothing more valuable in his room than a broken mirror in the shape of an isosceles triangle.

He uses that rough-edged mirror to monitor his hairs as they keep turning grey with his growing depression. His gloomy room and a boring grave are about the same in perfect misery except that the former has a window for a glance into the outside world. He is arguably the only medical doctor in Ghana involuntarily not on any social media platform as his only mobile phone is too archaic to be internet-friendly.

The dismissal letter handed FBI in 2012

The phone, which appears to be more needed in a museum than in a living room, does not need any password. It is accessible only to him because the keypad is tattered and he alone can locate where the bleached digits and the faded letters are on the pitiable keypad. He begs to survive as he fights for reinstatement, hoping that the salaries denied him, since he was “wrongfully axed” from his job in 2012, also will be paid. His brainy daughter, Sheila, has been home to her mother for some time now as he cannot afford her school fees anymore.

How FBI became a “victim”

The plight of FBI (as he is widely referred to by the beginning letters of his name) came to light last year when he spoke to Starr News that he was suspended indefinitely six years ago after he kicked against an alleged attempt by some staff at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital in the Western region to extort Gh¢50 from a poor couple in need of a blood transfusion to save a daughter who was on an ambulance-aided referral from the Prestea Government Hospital.

After the girl, Patience Sakpetey, reportedly died in the middle of a desperate search for money to pay for the withheld blood, the media stormed the hospital and headlined the alleged disservice done the poor teenager and her family.

FBI said, having waged a strong disapproval earlier against the alleged extortion move, the blameworthy staff suspected he had whispered the ‘forbidden deal’ to the press and they accused him of inviting the newshounds to the hospital. His problem reportedly started from there. And, according to him, the trouble worsened as he continued to, in the interest of patients, courageously point out things he said were being wrongly done at the hospital.

He became widely tagged by “detractors” as having a delusional disorder and he subsequently received a letter from the Western Regional Health Directorate directing him to go for a psychiatric assessment and a possible treatment. Dr. Armah Aloo, the Director in charge of the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital at the time, accompanied him to Professor Araba Sefa-Dedeh, a clinical psychologist at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital to whom he was referred. The professor did not find anything psychiatrically wrong with FBI.

In a feedback letter written in 2011 to the Western Regional Director of Health then, Dr. Linda Vanotoo, a copy of which Starr News has in possession, Professor Sefa-Dedeh said of FBI: “We explored the issues that provoked confrontation and what to do about them. The hospital on the other hand needs to ensure fairness and a lack of prejudice in their dealings with him (Dr. Betonsi). My assessment is that as of now there is no reason to conclude that he will have problems completing his internship and should be given the go-ahead to do his obstetrics and gynaecology rotation.”

Indefinite Suspension and another Psychiatric Assessment

The feedback did not put the matter to rest. Another letter came from the headquarters asking FBI to choose between submitting himself for ‘another’ psychiatric examination and going on indefinite suspension.

For declining to go for another check after he had been “cleared” in the first evaluation, he was handed an indefinite suspension letter the following year. He said his employers later “deliberately” misinformed the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department that he had vacated post without any notice just to terminate his salary, instead of telling the truth that he had, against the country’s labour laws, been handed an indefinite suspension without pay— an action he said the National Labour Commission (NLC) would deem as illegitimate even if he was indeed mentally ill as his critics claimed.

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) came to FBI’s defence after Starr News’s report on the case in 2017. As the GHS authorities insisted on another psychiatric assessment, the GMA facilitated FBI’s travelling from Navrongo to Accra to meet with a panel of officials from the Ghana Medical and Dental Council and the GHS to chart a way forward.

A logbook for housemanship training showing how astute Dr. Francis Betonsi Ibrahim is. He scores 102 out 114 marks, representing 90%.

FBI initially harboured some fears the GHS authorities, some of whom he says are fighting him everywhere he goes, could this time around machinate for a false report to be written against him from a new psychiatric review. But he shrugged off the fears and agreed to go through another test, saying he had to comply “because of intractable stress and because the justice system failed me in my opinion”.

That meeting, which saw that agreement reached, was held Tuesday February 13, this year. The assessment, since then, is yet to be conducted as Dr. Ibrahim continues to survive on ‘crumbs’ from sympathisers. Reasons for the delay in inviting him for the assessment have remained as vague as the reasons for which he was suspected of having a delusional syndrome in the first place. When contacted Monday, this week, the GMA President, Dr. Frank Ankobea, told Starr News the association was on course on the issue.

The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, did not answer his calls when Starr News tried to reach him Monday. He did not respond either to a whatsapp message sent to him after attempts to speak to him on the telephone had failed. Starr News had sought to, among other questions, find out from him if the feedback letter dispatched by Professor Araba Sefa-Dedeh to the Western Regional Health Directorate was forwarded to the headquarters or not and if there was any feedback to the headquarters from the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital on FBI’s assessment as well.

FBI to name Cabal Leader as Amnesty International steps in

Letter written by Professor Araba Sefa-Dedeh after an assessment on FBI

In the middle of March, this year, Dr. Ibrahim was relieved of the voluntary service he was rendering at the University for Development Studies (UDS) Hospital at Navrongo.

He believes the dismissal was engineered by a cabal bent on terminating his life. He said he would soon name members of that cabal which he said was being led by a very powerful politician who is nursing an ambition of becoming the presidential candidate of a political party in Ghana.

Starr News learns FBI, after reports of his distress came out in 2017, received a little support from old friends one of whom decided to assist him with some fairly used furniture to enliven his room. Meanwhile Amnesty International Ghana, touched by FBI’s dilemma after Starr News had notified its authorities this week of his case, has expressed its readiness to take up the matter.

“It hurts and you just feel so ashamed of yourself as a Ghanaian when you hear stories like this. The Ghana Health Service leaders love to stand in front of donor partners and, to attract sympathy from those donors, they speak so eloquently that doctors are refusing postings to deprived communities. But just look at how the same Ghana Health Service is maltreating their own doctor who is willing to work anywhere in the country. They are to blame if this doctor dies in this situation,” ranted Tahiru Tanko, a clearing and forwarding agent.

Adding his voice, Thomas Akanawe, a college tutor in the Upper East region, prodded human rights groups to intervene.

“Why are they delaying in resolving the matter? Do they want him to commit suicide before something is done about this? Why should a person who has spent a little less than a decade in a medical school be reduced to a pauper like this? The Ghana Medical Association, the Ghana Medical and Dental Council and the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health, the human rights groups—where are they on this matter?

“The Ghana Health Service authorities should bow their heads in shame. They are taking salaries and feeling good with their families and friends whilst a poor doctor is dying with his wife and daughter somewhere. Are they not demotivating other health workers by doing this to a whole doctor? This is the shameful state of our healthcare system. I am a sad Ghanaian today. Donald Trump has said it all,” he fumed.

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