March 8, 2016
With the advent of medical tourism in vogue among Nigerians, four United States-based surgeons and physicians have returned home with state-of-the-art facilities for critically sick patients, training of home-based doctors and reversing the trend of such tourism. In a parley with newsmen in Lagos, they spoke on their mission through the creation of Genesis Specialist Hospital (GSH) in Lagos State. Rebecca Ejifoma writes
Medical tourism has been one of the major problems bedeviling not only the health system of Nigeria but also her financial strength. Medical experts have claimed. And this is as a result of unequipped and unavailability of facilities in hospitals for effective medical practice.
Statistics in 2014 as published on informationnigeria.com, showed that Nigeria invests a robust N2 billion annually abroad for medical care; thereby, expanding the economy of India and several other countries they patronise.
Undoubtedly, this awakened the doctors, who could not rest on their oasis while their nation is reduced to ruins over failed health system and misappropriation of money.
These four brave Medical Doctors, who have chosen to come home against all odds, are: Roger Olade; Muyiwa Onabanjo; Gbadebo Adebayo and Ayotunde Adeyeri. Without regrets, they left the comfort of the US and voyaged back home with their wealth of experience in clinical medicine, surgery and critical care.
While Olade, a winner of multiple awards of Top American Physician and Chief Medical Director of GSH, has brought his over 20 years of world-class medical expertise and experience to healthcare practice in Nigeria, Onabanjo, has brought his over 25 years of robust experience as a physician with practice in Public Health and Internal Medicine.
Notwithstanding, Adebayo is a seasoned anaesthesiologist and interventional Pain Specialist with over 20 years of experience, as well as Adeyeri, a board-certified and fellowship trained general surgeon with extensive years of practice among several others.
“Our mission is to improve quality of healthcare in Nigeria, reduce medical tourism and upgrade it. We want to create a situation where people will seek healthcare in Nigeria rather than go out to India, Australia and South Africa,” the Medical Director and Chief Executive Officer of GHS, Olade said.
Olade, who said he came in as healthcare consultant, has been to various hospitals, trained doctors to help them improve their standard of care. “Successfully, we got license from the Federal Government to train doctors for their continuous education. So, we are also training Nigerian doctors.”
Counting their missions, the medical doctors emphasised that their mission was a personal passion to improve the quality of home-based doctors. Hence, the next move was to open a centre, where he can do what he preaches. “The centre is an opportunity to practice my experience in clinical care. I take care of very sick people.”
As a specialist in Clinical Care and Medical Emergency, Olade and his team affirmed that they have come for the very sick, eradicate medical tourism in Nigeria, as this is his personal passion.
According to the University of Ibadan Medical School graduate with Masters in Public Health from Harvard School of Public Health – Olade – the situation in Nigeria is very poor because Clinical Care Medicine is non-existent in Nigeria.
Hence, their plan is to ensure every doctor in Nigeria knows how to respond, treat and handle these patients with critical conditions. This is because there are very few people that are trained in that area. “We don’t have training for it in Nigeria.”
Sadly, he listed reasons for the country not having trained experts in this field as having more Nigerian doctors in the US than there are in Nigeria. “That is US alone, excluding UK or Australia. That already tells you that there is a severe brain drain. There is no incentive to come back unless there’s a mission or purpose for you.”
The medical team emphasised that most of their colleagues do not practise in Nigeria because the environment is not conducive to work in. “There is no supply, no equipment in LASUTH. There is a lot of politics, no financial reimbursement for them. So, to come down has to be just like a charity,” he added.
However, Olade decried that why doctors have come and gone back abroad is that the political situation is not very friendly. Adding that sometimes these doctors get animosity from doctors that are around – who are not very accepting of doctors trained abroad to come and join them.
Speaking to newsmen on the way out, he explained: “My personal solution is kind of what I’m doing – creating platforms that will make things easy for these guys to come and keep training those we have here. They are very smart people, who went to school of Medicine for some reasons. You can’t transplant foreign-trained doctors to come to Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, Onabanjo, a physician and Head of Operations at GSH, mourned the lackadaisical attitude towards medical practice. “We are practicing in a way that we don’t want to change. That has increased morbidity and mortality among our patients.”
He, also, noted they have started the change in their own area. “This is what we have to do before we start talking about changing government policies and politics. The sad thing is there is no encouragement. So, for us, it is a personal passion,” Onabanjo noted.
“There is the problem of light. Fluctuation of light has disturbed some equipment we brought in here. These are equipment of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Governmental policy is a stumbling block, too. But we have overlooked that, because we love our country and we want to put in our best to save our healthcare.”
Having trained several set of Doctors here, Onabanjo assured: “There are good Nigerian doctors willing to learn. We have trained several set of 50, 45 and more; they go back to their various hospitals to implement it.”
Still proffering lasting solution to the lingering problem, Olade explained: “We are now going to India. Nigeria spent 1.4billion dollars in India in 2014 just for healthcare. 15 years ago, India was worse than Nigeria. Her government turned to the doctors that trained abroad in the US and UK, created policies, brought them back, made it easy for them to get equipment, put them in places and then brought them in to train their own local doctors. Today, everybody, including Americans and Nigerians, are going there for healthcare.”
Accordingly, he added: “Just to bring our equipment, we were fighting with customs as if we were importing something to come and sell or like we are not together on this – saving lives.”
Therefore, with two here of us are here while the other two are in the US, they unanimously called on the government to come in. “These HMOs are picking the choicest companies, oil companies; thereby, leaving everybody else out. There has to be a safety net. Every country provides for its own people.”
On how they monitor the already trained doctors to achieve their aim, Olade, disclosed that they always keep in touch with the doctors. “We play the paternal role. So, if they have any case, they can bring it here. If they have any problem with their sick patients, our phones are always on to put them through.”
Created out of need and purpose, Genesis renders clinical services such as Pain Management, Pulmonology, Critical Care and Emergency Medicine Services, Preventive Services, Intensive Care Unit, Cardiology Services, Cancer Treatment Services, Neurology, Surgical Centre and Telemedicine services.
Having toured the clinic, observations showed that there are three intensive care units, auto analysers, theatre, x-ray machines and mobile x-ray machine. Also, there are air-conditioned rooms for patients and a telemedicine machine for communication between patients in Nigeria and doctors all around the world.
Centred in Ikeja, GSH is a critical care and surgical centre with a capacity of 10-bed with conducive environment. “We are trying to be the right healthcare centre, as well as keep it affordable,” Olade noted.