Ghana’s Medical and Dental Council (MDC) is showing what many have considered a devil-may-care attitude for failing to respond to public calls for immediate reinstatement of Francis Betonsi Ibrahim, a medical doctor who was “wrongfully dismissed” in 2012 after he exposed a purported wrongdoing at a public hospital.
The council tasked its practice committee in April, this year, to ascertain Dr. Ibrahim’s psychiatric fitness after he was tagged with “a possible delusional disorder” by co-workers and handed a dismissal 6 years ago by his employers— the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
The April test, which was the fifth, was conducted by Ghana’s foremost psychiatrist, Prof. Joseph Bediako Asare, and the country’s leading clinical psychologist, Prof. Araba Sefa-Dedeh, who declared him fit. It was expected that the report after the test would see the distressed general medical practitioner, who has been living on alms for years, not only reinstated without further delay but also compensated.
But four months after the assessment had been done in Accra, the MDC has not shown any concrete responsiveness. The same council which, in a letter written to the Bolgatanga-based doctor had instructed him to furnish the council with a copy of the psychiatric assessment report within a short deadline, has taken the report from the committee and is withholding it from the patient (Dr. Ibrahim) who has made rightful demands for a copy.
It would be recalled that the Registrar of the council, Dr. Eli Kwasi Atikpui, told Starr News after the April assessment that the council’s practice committee would meet on Thursday, June 7, 2018, to consider the report and give instruction “as to the way forward”. But when contacted again a week after the June 7 meeting was supposed to have been held, he did not sound any concrete steps had been taken on the matter. He agreed to be contacted yet again in another two weeks, but he neither answered the telephone calls placed to him nor replied a WhatsApp message sent to draw his attention to the deteriorating health of the doctor.
Doctor down with complicated malaria
Dr. Ibrahim, 42, looked ill when Starr News visited him Tuesday 31st July, 2018, in an old mudroom he had just found in a village in the Upper East region.
The roof on top of that cracked room is a perfect reflection of what outer space looks like: a galaxy of countless holes shining like the stars and a small-sized electric bulb hanging overhead in an exclusive middle like the moon.
Whilst everyone is asleep, he keeps involuntary vigil over his belongings as water drops in through those holes whenever it rains at night. His misery in the cockroach-encroached room is compounded with rats of outstanding stature gallivanting ‘with impunity’ all over the place. And he can easily tell when day breaks without looking at a watch or on his ‘aged’ mobile phone. He always can see the rays of sunlight slicing through the roof holes as the new dawn arrives just to remind him of his unending old troubles.
“When I’m sleeping, I have rats virtually playing around in the room. So, after eating, I do have my hands well washed with soap so my fingers are not chewed up by rats before I rise from bed. You can imagine, you wake up, your fingers are not there; you wake up, your fingers are missing,” he told Starr News.
He added, as he pointed at a miserable mattress in a dim corner: “That is where I sleep. I have complicated malaria as we speak. As you can see for yourself, with all sorts of crevices in the walls and in the roof, all kinds of insects find their way in here. Every part is leaking and very important documents are being destroyed by rainwater.”
Killing a doctor where doctors are scarce
As revealed by the latest Starr News checks, there are only 9 doctors to an estimated 400 patients who visit the Presbyterian Hospital at Bawku every day. The Navrongo War Memorial Hospital has just 4 doctors (one of them currently in school) who attend to an average of 130 patients a day. And the Upper East Regional Hospital in Bolgatanga, which receives between 10 and 15 referral cases a day and is supposed to have a minimum of 27 doctors or a maximum of 52, has only 4 doctors serving an average patient load of 250 on a daily basis.
The 3 doctors from Cuba, contracted to support the 4 Ghanaian doctors at the regional hospital, are on a usual break and expected back in September, this year, whilst the 6 house officers attached to the Obstetric and Gynaecological Unit of the facility are set to leave at the end of their engagement by Thursday 16th August, this year. There are many health facilities in the region without a doctor. The wrongfully dismissed and yet-to-be-reinstated Dr. Ibrahim is more than enough to fill just one of such crucial gaps. He needs a copy of the report to move on with his life. The council, who should be practically concerned about the country’s distressing current doctor-patient ratio of 1 doctor to 5,000 patients, is sitting tight on the report, doing nothing about it.
This is where many development watchers find the moonwalk pace at which the MDC is handling Dr. Ibrahim’s case so dampening, frightening, maddening and saddening.
The delay in handing Dr. Ibrahim back his job, or not responding to his request for a copy of the report on the latest psychiatric assessment so he could use the document (even if the GHS no longer wants him in its fold) to convince another employer that he is not “mad” as the image-denting reports already had done deep to his career, is not hurting the young doctor alone. It is also a disservice to every part of the country.
“So, you ask yourself what at all is the use of the Ghana Medical and Dental Council and the Ghana Medical Association if they can comfortably watch an innocent doctor to continue to suffer like this in a region where a rapidly rising population is wailing every day for doctors? Is this attitude of the council not going to kill the passion of young doctors in this country and kill the dreams of those who want to study and practise medicine? It’s so sad,” fumed Lawrence Yaminu, a lecturer.
Roots of the “Wrongful Dismissal”
Before the April test, FBI, as Dr. Ibrahim is mostly called by his initials, had gone through 4 imposed psychiatric assessments all of which proved he was normal.
He said his ordeal and the “mad man” tag on him came about after he openly spoke against some ills at workplace including attempts by some co-staff at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital in the Western region to extort money from a poor couple whose daughter was in dire need of a blood transfusion.
The ailing teenager, Patience Sakpetey, eventually died before her parents could raise the Gh¢50 demanded the transfusion.
But even after Dr. Ibrahim was cleared, some authorities at the GHS ordered him to go for a fifth psychiatric assessment. He declined at which he was handed a dismissal letter with a headquarters stamp in December, 2012.