A doctor who left a hospital in Co Sligo on the false premise that her fiance had been in a car crash in Dubai has been found guilty of professional misconduct at a Medical Council fitness-to-practise inquiry.
Dr Rihab Elfil (31), who worked as a senior house officer at Sligo General Hospital from January to June 2009, did not attend the fitness-to-practise inquiry because “as a married woman” her ability to travel was restricted, the inquiry was told on Friday.
She had left Ireland on June 4th, 2009, telling the hospital her fiance had been in a car crash, and did not return to fulfil her contract.
JP McDowell, solicitor for the Medical Council, told the inquiry that four days after her departure Dr Elfil had contacted the hospital to say her fiance had not been in a car crash and that she had been tricked by her family.
In a letter to the Medical Council in October 2009 explaining her behaviour, Dr Elfil said it was against her Sudanese tradition and culture for a woman to stay outside her home during the month before her wedding.
Her marriage was planned for June 19th, 2009, and she had tried to get three weeks’ holidays so she could be at home. But in January that year, when she started work, hospital management had told her she was entitled to only two weeks off at a time and would have to swap with other doctors to get a third week, which she was unable to do.
She said she had found herself caught between her family and marriage on one hand and the job she loved on the other.
The letter said her future father-in-law had phoned her about the car crash and had said her fiance had serious head injuries and was “critical”.
When she travelled to Dubai she found her fiance was fine. She was then told if she did not travel home to Sudan straight away the wedding would be called off and she would bring disgrace on her family.
Dr Elfil, who now works in paediatric medicine at Al Ain Hospital in the United Arab Emirates, said she could not return to Dublin to attend the inquiry.
“My ability to travel is restricted since my marriage,” she said in her letter. While she recognised her departure had caused problems for the hospital, she did not believe it amounted to professional misconduct.
After evidence from three hospital witnesses, who all spoke of the strain put on other staff by the departure of the junior doctor, chairman of the inquiry Dr John Monaghan said Dr Elfil’s behaviour amounted to professional misconduct. It was a serious falling-short of the standard expected.
“Dr Elfil was aware of the cultural and personal factors relating to her marriage and did not make adequate or timely efforts to address these before June 4th,” he said.Always be first with Sligo news - Never miss a story - Join us on Facebook