Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Founder of National Cardiothoracic Centre on Tuesday pledged to continue to advocate for the independence of the Centre and other institutions of excellence at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra.
“I will resist any attempt by the hospital’s administration to take-over the centre as it is already helpless in solving myriad of problems confronting the hospital. I believe in the total financial and administrative independence of institutions of excellence at the hospital to operate efficiently and effectively.”
These are National Diabetes Centre, National Centre for Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine, Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Unit and the National Cardiothoracic Centre.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng made the pledge in a statement issued in Accra on Tuesday and copied to Ghana news Agency (GNA).
He was dismissed from the Centre in a letter written by Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh on Thursday, August 25 without any reason.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng returned to Ghana to practice as Ghana’s first locally-based cardiothoracic surgeon, and established the National Cardiothoracic Centre at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in 1992 as there was no cardiothoracic surgery facility in the country at the time.
He also runs a charitable foundation, Ghana Heart Foundation that is responsible for paying for heart surgery for some indigent Ghanaians under his care.
In the statement, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng pointed out that the embarrassment could have been averted if he (Prof. Frimpong-Boateng) had been called for an interaction on the issue and noted that the letter sent to him did not make sense because it was illogical to terminate an honorary appointment.
“I have always made it clear to the Korle-Bu Hospital Management Team and the Hospital’s Board that it will be most unfortunate and unwise for them to take over the financial management of the institutions of excellence, “he added.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng was of the view that when the centre was inaugurated with the understanding that although the Centre was located on the hospital premises, it was a national institution whose independence was to be maintained.
“I very well remember that at the inauguration of the Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery Centre in 1997 and much later the Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy Centre, Former President Jerry John Rawlings stressed the need to maintain the unique national character and independence of these facilities. These facilities operated efficiently for the benefit of Ghanaians under the dispensation of financial and administrative autonomy”.
However, he said management of the hospital had been covertly trying to undermine the independence of the Centre, regarded as one of the institutions of excellence.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng was of the view that the current management and Board Chairman of the hospital did not seem to believe in or accept the concept of decentralisation because despite the many challenges facing the hospital, they want to take over the administrative and financial management of these institutions of excellence.
The statement noted that currently, the management had succeeded in taking over the financial management of every facility in the hospital apart from the Centre and the irony of the situation was that it did not supply inputs for prompt management of patients in these centres resulting in major challenges that were creeping into their operations with the attendant compromise in patient care.
It admitted that not everybody at the hospital shared the view that the institutions of excellence must be financially and administratively autonomous to foster their continuing growth and sustainability, and regretted that some key senior members in management thought the hospital was not performing well because of the independence of the Centre.
The statement said these senior members believed that the Centre was performing well and generating much money, which when placed at the disposal of management would improve fortunes of the entire hospital.
“They believe that Prof. Frimpong-Boateng is a tyrant and an obstacle to the progress of the hospital and that when I am away not only will the hospital’s performance improve but personnel at the Centre will rejoice”.
“The Board Chairman confirmed at a meeting with medical practitioners at the Centre on Monday, August 29 that when he assumed duty it was his intention to make sure that there were no autonomous or semi-autonomous departments or centres at the hospital.”
The statement said according to the Board Chairman, all facilities should be placed under the hospital Board but this was contrary to the Sub-Budget Management Committees Concept that sought to decentralise the hospital’s financial administration such that efficiency would be the entrenched policy of the hospital.
On the transition of the Centre, it noted that it begun five years ago and there had been efforts to institute structures and processes to ensure the survival, growth and sustainability of cardiothoracic care in Ghana in order that, unlike most institutions in Ghana, the next generation would not become a pioneer generation and still be confronted with basic developmental challenges.
The statement said Prof. Frimpong-Boateng decided about five years ago that when the Centre had a reasonable number of cardiothoracic surgeons, anaesthetists and other supportive personnel, it should embark on a programme of sub-specialisation for optimal patient care and promote research and accelerated training.
“These and other programmes have been put in place and as is self-evident that I have been planning to take a back seat and step aside some day since setting up the cardiothoracic centre”.
It said during the 20th anniversary celebration of the Centre in August 2009, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng informed staff of the Centre that he was retiring and handing over to the next generation of leaders, but they requested that he stayed on and lead them to complete the relocation project at the Centre and finalise its autonomous status.
The statement said the current facilities could no longer adequately meet the needs of the population hence the plan to relocate it outside the hospital.
“Recently, I got to know that individuals who are to take decisions to facilitate relocation of the Centre are the same people who want to absorb the Centre into the hospital system. It is therefore not surprising that the decision to allocate land to the Centre has delayed for two years,” Prof. Frimpong-Boateng added.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng recalled that about 11 years ago when he decided to resign due to activities of detractors at the hospital, he had the privilege of meeting President John Evans Atta Mills, then Vice President who persuaded him to stay on.
“Dr (Mrs) Mary Grant accompanied me to the Castle. Former President Rawlings had travelled therefore I was ushered in to see former Vice Mills. I believe that President Mills will recall the conversation we had. After listening to me he said: “Doctor you came to Ghana to help the people of this country. You are not here because of a few detractors. In God’s name please go back and do your work.”
“The kind words of the then Vice President Mills encouraged me and I was very thankful and went back to the Centre. I was all the more determined to work hard and also train the next generation of heart surgeons. It is therefore wrong for anyone to suggest that I am afraid to go on retirement and link the “dismissal” letter to my age.
“My wish now is that the next generation of workers at the Centre will be successful and that the autonomy and independence of the Centre will be guaranteed.”
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng appealed to Ghanaians, especially those in the Diaspora, who have been calling him and sending messages that Ghana was not worth dying for and therefore were not encouraged to return home and serve to re-think their position.
He said, “One may say that Ghana is a country not worth dying for but he believes it is precisely for that reason that Ghanaians should die for Ghana. Because if you die for a country worth dying for, it is no longer a sacrifice but it is a big sacrifice if you die for a country not worth dying for”.
“I appeal to the German Government whose efforts made the establishment of the Centre possible not to be dismayed at what has happened and take a decision that will affect the development of such high-tech medicine in Ghana or any other developing country.
“I want to reiterate my appeal to our international partners such as USAID, the US Embassy, SOS International and West African Rescue Association to still have confidence in the Centre.
“I thank Former President Rawlings for the extraordinary support, as well as Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings and key members of President Rawlings’ administration for their support during the early years that enabled me, when I was 39 years old to establish and lead the cardiothoracic team to the success being evident currently.
“I thank Former President John Agyekum Kufuor for the trust and confidence he had in me and allowed me to serve Ghana both as Chief Executive Officer of the hospital and Director of the National Cardiothoracic Centre, a period which witnessed the transformation of the hospital of excellence worthy of health tourism.
“I thank President Mills for giving me the opportunity to serve the Centre during the two-and-a-half years of his administration and my wife, Agnes and the children for their love, support and encouragement and remind Ghanaians that ’Great Institutions are difficult to build, easy to destroy and impossible to restore”.