BY EDWARD ADETI
DR FRANCIS Ibrahim-Betonsi, a medical practitioner who was wrongfully dismissed from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in 2012, has been reinstated and promoted to the rank of a medical officer.
The GHS Director General, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, has directed the Upper East Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Winfred Ofosu, to deploy him with immediate effect.
“The above-named officer is, via a copy of this letter, directed to report to you for permanent assignment with immediate effect.
“Kindly deploy him appropriately and report his assumption of duty for our further necessary action,” said the Director General in a letter dated 31st October, 2018.
Dr Ibrahim-Betonsi’s trials began after he openly kicked against some alleged wrongdoing at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital about seven years ago. He was demoted two steps down from the position of a medical officer to a junior house officer. His salary was terminated unlawfully for six years.
The general practitioner, who goes by the initials FBI, was victimised and falsely tagged with a mental illness by some superiors and subjected to four psychiatric assessments all of which saw him cleared as normal. When he refused to submit himself to yet another psychiatric examination, he was subtly dismissed from the service through indefinite suspension.
Six years of trials
For six years, he was virtually hungry and homeless, hopping from one menial engagement to another for a paltry income to cater for himself and his family. Unable to pay his daughter’s school fees at a point, the little girl, Sheila, missed a lot of lessons as she stayed at home for a long time.
A friend, Alfred Afiiwo Kujatera, who saw him surviving on ‘scraps’ at Navrongo, referred him to ‘Starr News’ in 2017. And ever since that encounter with him about the middle of last year, ‘Starr News’ had persistently engaged the powers in the health sector in a tug-of-war — from the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), the Medical and Dental Council (MDC), Office of the GHS Director General and, finally, Office of the GHS Human Resource Director — to reinstate the gifted doctor.
In April, 2018, the MDC called for another psychiatric test — a fifth one — and contracted Ghana’s most qualified psychiatrist, Prof. Joseph Bediako Asare, and the country’s leading clinical psychologist, Prof. Araba Sefa-Dedeh, to assess Dr Ibrahim-Betonsi. The two revered professors ruled the young doctor was fit to practise. But the report of the assessment was ‘withheld’ within the MDC.
‘Starr News’ drew Amnesty International Ghana (AIG) into the struggle, and with reactions from angry Ghanaians, home and abroad, who continued to share on social media platforms every report ‘Starr News’ aired or published concerning the tribulations of the well-read doctor, pressure mounted for the report to be released and for the ‘dying’ doctor to be recalled to work.
In September, this year, after another ‘Starr News’ report in August about the deteriorating health of the doctor as he lived in a rat-infested room, the MDC released his medical report and renewed his licence to pave the way for his reinstatement. But it took another struggle between ‘Starr News’ and the GHS in October, after the Director General had received some clearance documents from the MDC and had asked the Human Resource Directorate of the GHS to facilitate the reinstatement process, to finally return the doctor to the GHS fold.
Dr Ibrahim-Betonsi to be posted to Upper East Regional Hospital
On Tuesday night, the Upper East Regional Director of Health Services (mentioned earlier) told ‘Starr News’ he had received a copy of the reinstatement letter from the Director General.
The Upper East Regional Hospital is gaining one more doctor because Dr. Ofosu said he would post the reinstated medical officer to that busy facility. Dr Ibrahim-Betonsi now joins the five Ghanaian and two Cuban doctors serving an average of 250 patients every day at the regional hospital.
The hospital, which is supposed to have a minimum of 27 doctors or a maximum of 52, receives between 10 and 15 referral cases on a daily basis. Three more Cuban doctors are expected to join the doctors at the hospital before the close of this month. The hospital’s Administrator, Zakariah Yakubu, said Dr Ibrahim-Betonsi’s posting to the facility would relieve the over-burdened doctors there.
“The current number is overworked. Any opportunity to get an additional doctor is welcome by us. If you consider the number of doctors around and the number of clients received, it is woefully inadequate, woefully inadequate. We would welcome any opportunity to add on to our number.
“In the case of the new doctor who is coming, because he stayed home for long (six years), when he comes, he will be attached to a more experienced person for him to pick up the skills again. For the next six months or so, he would need to be attached to a more experienced person and he’s good to go,” the Administrator told ‘Starr News’ Tuesday night.
Dr Ibrahim-Betonsi has a lot more to say about the harrowing experience that started when he stood in the way of some colleagues who were bent on extorting money from a poor couple whose daughter needed an emergency blood transfusion to stay alive. The girl, Patience Sakpetey, died as her parents could not raise in time the “illegal fee” reportedly charged them for a blood transfusion.
“ ‘Starr News’ actually saved the situational crisis for me. The media house, especially the investigator, Edward Adeti, saved my life. To lose a job invariably has direct bearing on your survival,” said the newly-reinstated and promoted doctor.
A relieved Dr Ibrahim-Betonsi looks set to pick up his career again, with a compensation package due him, for all he has lost for six years, being worked out. He will thank Ghanaians later for standing by him, for believing in him. For now, reporting for duty where he is most needed is the big moment he has long waited for — for six trying years!