You could call him Ghana’s Ben Carson, known for his exceptional healing skills, Dr. Francis Ibrahim Betonsi, tells the story of how his career ended abruptly when colleagues wrongfully accused him and later tagged him as mentally unstable to get him out of the job as payback for something he says he “didn’t know anything about”.
Dr. Bentonsi explains how a medical superintendent and some senior colleagues at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital schemed with officials from the regional directorate of the Ghana Health Service 5 years ago to accuse him of masterminding a publication in a newspaper that revealed details of how a patient was deprived blood because they refused to pay bribe, leading to her death.
“There was a case at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital where a girl died as a result of some illegal practice. I think somebody wanted some money, some kind of bribe for blood transfusion. The girl was to be transfused and somebody wanted money. The [family] didn’t have. So, the blood was withheld and the teenager died in the process. This story was published in the newspapers. Subsequently, somebody called me and said the medical superintendent said I was the brain behind the newspaper publication. I didn’t know anything about that publication. I was told the medical director said he would sack me at all costs.
He maintained that despite having denied any involvement in the said publication, he was branded as ‘mad’ and referred to some mental hospitals by one Dr. Paul Kwaw Ntodi (a medical superintendent at the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital in the Western Region at the time) for treatment. This apparently was a move by the latter to ‘rid’ him off the facility and to ‘teach him a lesson’ for having instigated the contents of the said publication. As though that wasn’t enough, he was given an indefinite suspension and replaced by a junior, cutting out his salary and every other incentive that came with his job as a doctor.
“Then, he took my name out of the duty roster and put a junior doctor in my place, meaning indeed he had dismissed me from work. My name was taken out and I wasn’t posted to any unit. It confirmed what I had heard— that he said he was going to dismiss me. And I find it funny— very funny— because the medical director, just like any other doctor, just like me, is also an employee of the Ghana Health Service. So, he does not have that locus to dismiss me at the level of the hospital. He was enjoying some sort of support from the regional health directorate and they had to think up an accusation that I had a mental illness as grounds for my dismissal”
“It was so painful. I was taken to Ankaful Mental Hospital in tears, in so much pain. There I met the Medical Director at the time, Dr. Kwaw Armah-Arloo. Subsequently, I was referred to Korle-Bu where I met Dr. Araba Sefa-Dedeh, a clinical psychologist”.
Dr. Bentosi narrated how despite medical reports dismissing his supposed ‘deranged state’ were provided from officials of the mental hospitals he was transferred to, he was denied access to any of them for a long time. He also explained how a directive from the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to reinstate him following a hearing by the same was completely defied.
“A report came out. The report was hidden from me. It was never provided for more than one year. And yet, I’m being subjected to all manner of atrocities and abuse.
“CHRAJ picked up the case and eventually I won that case at CHRAJ where the authorities were compelled to reinstate me and to produce a copy of the report for collection. For the first time I saw the report. The report favoured me. The report says I didn’t have any problem and that authorities should be fair in their dealings with me and avoid prejudice. I was cleared four good times,” he stated.
“I have never made any attempts to expel him from the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital— either by depriving him of accommodation, depriving him of his salary, inciting any staff against him, portraying him as a ‘violent mad doctor’ or pile his personal file with false reports,”
Excerpts from a written feedback forwarded in 2011 by Dr. Araba Sefa-Dedeh (the clinical psychologist mentioned earlier) to the Western Regional Director of Health Service at the time, Dr. Linda Vanotoo, read: “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.”
After the series of events leading to his joblessness, the 39-year-old doctor at Navrongo in the Upper East region, has had to deal with living on scraps as his salary was completely cut. The “Survivor Doctor” currently renders voluntary medical services at the University of Development Studies hospital at Navrongo. Though he works without being paid, he is still saving several lives with his exceptional skills.
He lives in a single near-empty room with no curtains, a vacant wardrobe, about two old pairs of shoes and a plastic table where a few grains of leftover sugar and some coins were kept for future use.
Life for him has not been easy as his persistent request for reinstatement and payment of his salaries, have been met with threats and continuous abuses.
“They are using the system to fight me. I don’t know of any law, locally or internationally, that calls for the dismissal or indefinite suspension of an employee on grounds of mental illness even granted that I had any mental illness. You could check with the National Labour Commission to verify what I'm saying. I have been so badly defamed and abused. They just want to destroy me, destroy my life. What was my crime? Maybe because I refused to be corrupt.
“Even to eat is a problem. My life has come to a standstill. I have been jobless, depersonalised, dehumanised by my own colleague professionals. They dubiously told the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department that the reason for my dismissal was I vacated post but at the same time you are accusing me of psychiatric illness. Before my car was grounded, there was an attempt to blow off my car whilst I was inside the car. And there was another attempt to get me killed in an accident by loosening the bolts of two my tyres. The tyre on the driver’s side got removed suddenly whilst I was driving and the car skidded off the road. A cabal is fighting me. They are monitoring my movements wherever I go. I don’t know why some senior doctors are sitting aloof and will not condemn it,” he grieved.