The sad story of Ghana’s pioneer plastic surgeon

Dr. Anthony George Laing

Dr. Anthony George Laing

Ghana’s forerunner plastic surgeon at the Reconstructive, Plastic Surgery and Burns center at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital Dr. Anthony George Laing is not happy that for the past 8 months he has not received his salary due to unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork.

The 72 year old retired Plastic Surgeon, who works as a Consultant and cannot stay away from work because of his experience, personally visits the Ministry of Finance and the Accountant General’s Office, chasing his salary.

With very sturdy hands Dr. Anthony George Laing still operates in the theatre and consults at the Outpatients Department (OPD) of the Plastic Surgery and Burns center at Korle-Bu.

Dr. Laing was baring his heart out to Stephen Anti, host of pm: EXPRESS on the Personality Friday show on Joynews on Multi TV.

After retirement he renewed his contract three times so he can continue to render the much needed life saving services to Ghana. But as he enjoys his job and gives his all to Ghana, the state has forgotten to pay his salary.

“After renewal of contract I may go 9 months without pay…. As I am sitting here I have not received my pay for the past 8 months…I know this is not the right place to say this but these things must be brought out…. Not a penny … and this is very discouraging because the experience that I have cannot be bought” he said.

Dr. Anthony George Laing who returned to Ghana in 1993 to champion plastic surgery said though he receives so much satisfaction from his job, the working conditions can be very frustrating.

He said “We have got lots of people… specialists like myself, who want to come to Ghana but it is very frustrating. Surgeons would have to go to the ministry of finance, leave their work place to chase salary. I hope that this anomaly would be corrected”.

Affording a good car is even a challenge to the renowned surgeon as his old car keeps breaking down. But in all these frustrations he still says working as a Plastic Surgeon in Ghana is very fulfilling.

When host Stephen Anti asked whether he was rich he almost snapped.

“You can well imagine it is not easy running a car and literally fend for yourself. So if I say I am not rich then this is the immediate reasons why I am not rich! I am surviving but it’s hard! I should be able to afford a car that should not keep breaking down but I can’t” he burst out.

Dr. Anthony George Laing refuses to take the backstage at the Reconstructive plastic surgery and burns center at Korle Bu as his work schedule is always packed.

He spelt out his work “I sit at the out- patient department ….and I attend to 50 patients from morning to late afternoon twice a week and I go to theatre maybe twice a week which will last from about 9 o’clock to about 3 or 4. You can be called to perform, and you do emergencies… The emergencies may start from Monday to the following Monday…”

Two four hour long surgeries of a breast reduction for a woman and skin grafting for a boy, who suffered severe burns from a domestic accident, were serialized on the show, fully detailing the bloody and meticulous procedures Dr. Laing perform on a daily basis.

Beyond the job satisfaction, the few numbers of plastic surgeons in Ghana makes it difficult for him to retire. Ghana now has only 8 plastic surgeons attending to a population of over 24 million.

Dr. Laing hoped government would act swiftly to beef up the number of plastic surgeon in the country.

After training in Sheffield University in England, Dr. Anthony George Laing returned to Ghana in 1993 to pioneer plastic surgery in the country.

“We could perhaps expedite the training of local surgeons. The work is plenty but the labourers are few. 15 years of the existence of the center, I expect our center to be more friendly…I hope government would build a center, spacious conference rooms so that students who need to be in the theatre can sit in their classrooms and still learn so that we train more”. He said.

Certainly the life of Dr. Anthony George Laing is worth emulating. He advised students who are interested in having careers in plastic surgery to forget their meals, be passionate about the job and be ready to operate for 8 hours. “Forget that you would go home after work” he ended.

Dr. Laing is reputed for some very complicated procedures, including fixing the limbs of accident victims, using a graft of skin to repair one side of the face of an accident victim whose brains were left exposed by the accident.

Speaking with grave emotions, Dr. Laing recalled one instance where his patient died on the operating table, because the blood meant for him, was wrongly labeled with someone else’s name and taken away from the blood depository, just at the time he needed a blood transfusion. He said, to loose a patient right there before your eyes when you are helpless and could only just stand and watch, is a very heart breaking part of the job of a surgeon.

Despite all the challenges bedeviling Plastic Surgery in the country, when asked by host Stephen Anti, if he would have wished to be in any other profession, he brighten up with a smile to say, “I’ll never wish to be anything else than a Surgeon”.

From: Ghana| Joy News Television| Adwoa Dansowaa Awuku

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