General News of Wednesday, 12 September 2018
The Medical and Dental Council (MDC) of Ghana has cleared popular medical practitioner, Dr. Francis Ibrahim-Betonsi and renewed his licence to practise six years after losing his job under extremely controversial circumstances.
Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi was wrongfully dismissed from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in 2012 on grounds of alleged “possible delusional disorder” whilst practising at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital in the Western region.
The gifted doctor, likened to America’s Ben Carson by some, was tagged “a madman” after kicking against reported attempts by some staff at the hospital to extort Gh¢50 (10 US dollars) from a poor couple whose critically ill daughter, Patience Sakpetey, needed an emergency blood transfusion to save her life.
The extremely beautiful teenage girl, on referral from the Prestea Government Hospital, died at the regional hospital as her parents searched in vain for the money demanded by those staff.
Subsequently, Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi was subjected to four psychiatric assessments by some GHS authorities, with Dr. Ama Aloo, a former Medical Director at the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital in the Central region, being one of his assessors. He was cleared as normal after undergoing those tests.
But the same authorities imposed a fifth psychiatric examination on him and handed him a dismissal letter for refusing to comply.
He survived years of severe hardships after losing his job by begging for alms until Starr News intervened, persistently engaging the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), the MDC, the GHS and Amnesty International Ghana (AIG) to have him reinstated.
As Starr News mounted pressure for his recall, the MDC imposed a fresh psychiatric evaluation in April, 2018, on him through the GMA through the association because of his protracted dispute with the GHS.
The council also threatened sanctions if he declined the order. He obliged. This time, Ghana’s most senior psychiatrist, Professor Joseph Bediako Asare, and the country’s topmost clinical psychologist, Professor Araba Sefa-Dedeh, conducted the test. And as before, the report from the two elderly professors cleared him as fit to practise.
A copy of the latest report sighted by Starr News says the doctor does not have any mental problem but it indicates that his person has been affected in a way as a result of the frustrations, the rejection as well as the financial and economic stress he suffered after he was abused, maltreated and tortured by his superiors and wrongfully dismissed from the GHS six years ago. The report further recommended that he should be given placement by the GHS.
GHS Director-General receives Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi’s clearance report, documents
A letter written by the MDC’s Registrar, Dr. Eli Kwesi Atikpui, clearing and certifying Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi to practise, a current certificate of practice as well as a medical psychiatric report directly copied to the GHS headquarters by Professor Asare are on the table of the GHS Director-General, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare.
Speaking to Starr News Monday, the Director-General indicated processes were in place to implement the recommendation (reinstatement of the much-troubled doctor following his clearance) in the report.
“I have gotten a letter. I have gotten a document from the [MDC]. He (Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi) was our employee. Now, he has gone through a system. We are an organisation. We are passing through a process,” he said.
How Superiors abused and tortured the young doctor under the guise of psychiatric illness
Checks by Starr News show that some superiors, before Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi’s dismissal in 2012, secretly stocked his official file with letters requesting him to go for psychiatric tests.
The documents were kept there without his knowledge and consent. He only received surprise instructions “from above”, asking him to go for “compulsory” psychiatric examinations. And each time a test cleared him of any psychiatric problem, the same superiors usually would block him from accessing the report so he would not have anything to defend himself against the “madman” tag on him.
As they succeeded in keeping such reports out of his reach, they harassed him further by causing more mental evaluations to be conducted on him to justify at all costs that he had a mental problem against the contrary. All of this caused the helpless doctor a great deal of agony.
For instance, Dr. Richard Anthony, the current Medical Superintendent at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital, wrote a letter pushing Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi to go for a psychiatric test. He “bundled” him to the Ankaful Psychiatric Hospital and subsequently took him to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to be examined by a clinical psychologist, Professor Araba Sefa-Dedeh, to whom the psychiatrist at Ankaful, Dr. Ama Aloo, had referred him.
Dr. Anthony knew, after the long Korle Bu trip, that a final report by the clinical psychologist had cleared Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi as mentally fit, but he still referred him to the current Chief Psychiatrist, Dr. Akwasi Osei, claiming that he needed help through yet another mental assessment. He did not reveal to the Chief Psychiatrist that Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi had gone for previous assessments in his company and that he had been declared as normal.
It was the said psychiatric trial Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi, for fear of victimisation, resisted and, as a result of the refusal to have further assessment and treatment for what the GHS (even whilst yet to set eyes on him) had concluded and termed as “a possible delusional disorder”, was dismissed in 2012 through indefinite suspension.
Promotions withheld before dismissal
Prior to the dismissal, he was supposed to be recognised as a medical officer and paid as such after completing his houseman-ship in 2012. But the reverse was the case. All the promotions due him were deliberately withheld.
He was treated as a house officer (an equivalent of a national service staff working under supervision to be fully certified) by those superiors who still refer to him as such (a house officer) in official documents today in his miserable condition. He filled and submitted a routine form for placement as a medical officer, but he never had his promotion. He wrote three application letters for same promotion. His requests were turned down.
In September, 2012, he wrote a letter to the GHS Director-General at the time, Dr. Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira, copied to the then Minister for Health, Alban Bagbin, to look into his case. He cited in that letter that a number of psychiatric tests initiated by his superiors in that region had cleared him as normal, a report of which was accepted and gazetted by the then Western Regional Director of Health Services, Dr. Linda Vanotoo, and that he was only being subjected to “abuse and torture” by those superiors.
But he was not given audience, with the GHS going ahead to dismiss him 3 months later. The doctor even took the initiative a number of times to see the Director-General to explain his side of the story but was often prevented from meeting with him by the Director General’s Secretary at the time (name withheld).
When contacted Monday for his side of the story, Dr. Anthony refused to comment on the role he reportedly played in Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi’s tribulations. He only said the MDC was dealing with the issue and cut short the telephone conversation by ending the call abruptly as Starr News pressed to hear more from him.
CHRAJ blamed for “Loud Silence” on Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi’s case
Those superiors also spread false claims that Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi had no place in the GHS because he did not complete his houseman-ship at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital.
Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi dismissed the rumours Tuesday by showing a letter of attestation and a permanent certificate issued to him by the hospital’s medical director at the time, Dr. Paul K. Ntodi, to indicate that he finished his houseman-ship.
“My shoes are so bad that when I walk, my feet hurt me a lot,” said the agonising general practitioner, who has a daughter and a wife to cater for, in April, this year.
He had bemoaned in a conversation with Starr News earlier: “I have been reduced to an animal with a fur and a tail.”
Some disappointed development watchers have blamed the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) for being “mute” and for its “loud silence” on Ibrahim-Betonsi’s case after receiving petitions from many hands as well as a letter from the Amnesty International Ghana about the “gross injustice” meted out to the “highly qualified” young doctor and the “blatant abuse” of his fundamental human rights to work and to earn a living in his country by “high-profile persons with impunity”.
Observers generally feel Ghana’s Chief Psychiatrist, Dr. Akwasi Osei, totally let Dr. Ibrahim-Betonsi down for supporting the dismissal that reduced the “highly intelligent and eloquent” young doctor to “a potential suicide candidate” and have expressed deep shock the same Chief Psychiatrist “paradoxically” told the media Monday September 10 (World Suicide Prevention Day) mental stress due to job loss could lead to suicide.