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General News | Aug 30, 2011

Frimpong-Boateng must go - Mills insists

President John Evans Atta Mills
President John Evans Atta Mills

A female heart patient has reportedly died as the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) toys with the hearts of patients who came to the National Cardiothoracic Centre at Korle-Bu on Monday for treatment, following the sudden dismissal of the boss of the centre, Prof Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng.

Other heart patients had to return home unattended to, due to the suspension of services by the staff of the centre in solidarity with their former boss.

Daily Guide learnt that the patient who died was refused admission because of the suspension of services by the staff of the center, including specialists and other health workers.

The staff took the action to protest against the arbitrary dismissal of the renowned heart surgeon, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng by the government.

Snippets of reports picked up by Daily Guide suggest that the Cardio boss was sacked on political grounds, as he had been allegedly accused of extending his politics to the teaching hospital.

The former Cardio boss had been a CEO of Korle-Bu where he resigned from to contest the New Patriotic Party (NPP) presidential race in 2007. However, after losing to 2008 NPP flag-bearer Nana Akuffo-Addo, he returned to the Cardio Centre to carry out his professional duties, before his dismissal last Thursday.

According to the report, the patient died after medical officers refused to admit her into the health facility on Monday morning.

A doctor who pleaded anonymity said even though the patient, a white woman who was brought in by paramedics of the West African Rescue Mission, was in severe pain, there was nothing the centre could do for her under the circumstance.

Staff of the Cardio Centre had stated that they would continue to lay down their tools until government decided to reinstate Prof. Frimpong-Boateng.

Surgeons, doctors, nurses and other supporting staff at the Centre on Monday wore red armbands, sang and chanted slogans, as they remonstrated against the Professor's Thursday dismissal.

Titled, 'Re: Termination of appointment as Honorary Director of the National Cardiothoracic Centre at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital', the letter signed by Joseph Yieleh Chireh, Minister of Health said: “We refer to letter no.: DMS/A450 dated 22 June, 2000, offering you appointment as the Honorary Director in Charge of the National Cardiothoracic Centre. In view of your transfer from the Ministry of Health to the University of Ghana Medical School, your appointment as Honorary Director in Charge of the Cardiothoracic Centre has been terminated with immediate effect.

“We take this opportunity to thank you for the services rendered to the Cardiothoracic Centre and also wish you well in your future endeavours.”

Copies of the letter were sent to the Secretary to the President; Chief of Staff; Deputy Minister of Health; Chief Director of the Ministry of Health; Board of Directors of Korle-Bu; Chief Executive of Korle-Bu; Provost of College of Health; and Dean of University of Ghana Medical School.

Subsequently, a 5-page petition signed by 17 doctors at the Cardio Centre had been submitted to the government, giving reasons why the renowned heart surgeon should not be treated in such a manner after his invaluable services to the nation.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng received his dismissal from Mr Yieleh Chireh last week Thursday August 25, while President Mills was out of the country.

He was asked to vamoose immediately and was said to have left the office exactly two hours after receiving the letter because he said it stated categorically that his dismissal took immediate effect.

President Mills subsequently met the agitated staff on Monday at the Castle, but not much was achieved as he insisted Prof Frimpong-Boateng must leave, but on a more congenial approach.

“The President acknowledged that the transition process and the Minister of Health's letter could have been better and assured all of his continuous commitment to building strong institutions, promoting the rule of law and ensuring quality healthcare for all citizens.

“The President has subsequently directed that a proper handing over process of the administrative functions of the NCC be carried out within one month beginning from today and that he expects normalcy to return at the NCC,” a statement signed by Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a deputy Minister of Information said.

According to the staff of the Cardio Centre, they were presently troubled by the Professor's dismissal, and their agitated mood did not provide a safe environment for the performance of complex and delicate heart procedures on patients, hence the suspension of their service to incoming patients.

When Daily Guide got to the centre at about 8:30.a.m Monday, shreds of red fabric were hanging at the main entrance and wards, while incoming patients were seen standing outside in the hope that they would be attended to.

A notice at the entrance read, “Attention: The Cardiothoracic Centre is not providing services to the public until further notice. We will inform the public when the centre is open. Thanks for your cooperation.”

The spokesman for the group, Dr. Frank Edwin, addressing the media at the centre on Monday said, “Work grounded to a halt the morning of Friday 25th August 2011 when the news broke at the Cardiothoracic Centre.

“In response, the staff of the National Cardiothoracic Center petitioned the President of the Republic, Prof. J.E.A Mills, to revoke the Health Minister's decision.”

He stated that in a letter signed by all senior staff of the centre on Saturday 26th of August 2011, “the basis for the Health Minister's decision was questioned as virtually all Heads of Department at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital were also staff of the University of Ghana Medical School.”

The senior staffs were of the opinion that currently, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng was directing the next generation of leaders at the center in an effort to expand the current facility to manage the increased national and regional demands on the centre.

This process, they said, “which involves efforts at relocating the present Cardiothoracic Center and sub-specialised training of staff, has been running since the 20th anniversary of the Centre held in August 2009”.

The staff further noted that Prof. Frimpong-Boateng almost single-handedly established the National Cardiothoracic Centre and trained most of its current staff, motivating them to stay and work locally.

In the light of these facts, the staff of the Centre “considered the termination of Prof. Frimpong-Boateng's appointment as Director subversive of national interest, and a disincentive to the patriotism of Ghanaians both locally and abroad”.

Dr. Edwin said, “While it is conceivable that the Hon. Minister's action is based on misinformation concerning the often complex inter-relationships between the workings of the Ministry of Health and the University of Ghana Medical School, it is hoped that government will take urgent steps to correct this anomaly and return the Cardiothoracic Centre to its previous efficient state.”

In a related development, members of the Department of Surgery, in an emergency meeting held Monday morning, expressed their disappointment at the dismissal of Prof. Frimpong-Boateng.

A letter signed by Dr. N.A Adu-Aryee, Acting Head of Department of Surgery at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, to the Minister of Health said, “Members of the department expressed dismay and disappointment at the reasons given for the termination of his appointment.”

It added, “We would like to remind the Hon. Minister that the majority of Senior Staff of the Medical School also render invaluable administrative and clinical services to the hospital, ministry and the nation as a whole. Most of the Heads of Departments and as such heads of Sub-BMCs and units are employees of the medical school.”

It therefore urged the Minister to reconsider his decision as they “find it difficult to reconcile your action taken against him with your reasons given.”

Meanwhile, Central Regional Communications Director of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Bernard Allotey Jacobs, has advised the President to relieve Joseph Yieleh Chiereh of his duties as Health Minister rather than Professor Frimpong-Boateng.

Allotey Jacobs, speaking as a panelist on Peace FM's flagship programme 'Kokrokoo' demanded that “the Health Minister should explain to Ghanaians what his motivations were in taking such an action”, adding that he did not “understand why the lives of innocent patients should be toyed with at the expense of politics”.

Story by Daily Guide/Ghana

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