What changes have you seen in this segment of medicine in Nigeria over the last few years?
The competition has increased. Many people believe wrongly that assisted conception is where you make money. Yes, you can make money, but the most important thing is that you must also be able to deliver. Of course, that is the revolution that happens in every country and is not particular to us. We exploded from about 10-12 clinics to over a hundred in the space of four years. This has made it difficult for consumers to be able to differentiate the various services. However, I am sure this will sort itself out. Everybody thinks we do IVF, but we know that not everybody knows IVF.
Do you think your prices cater to the higher income end of the population?
Maybe not the highest incomes because those high-income people can go anywhere in the world. Confidentiality is one of the things in this business, all over the world. People do not want to announce that they are doing IVF. If they can afford it, they go abroad. This money should stay in the economy in Nigeria. Therefore, you will see that most of the people that can go anywhere in the world will still go. After we did that devaluation, some people that used to belong to that class that can go abroad for medical procedures no longer belong to that class. So they have to use the services in Nigeria.
What is your core service today?
Endometriosis has been around for about 12 years now, so it still on but there are other things now like egg freezing. We are about to launch the association for fertility preservation which we are in the forefront for and egg freezing is a major part of that. We are also looking at ovarian tissue cryo-preservation. Usually, to create eggs you need to use drugs; however, now it is possible to do it without the use of drugs, but to do a laparoscopy and take a part of the ovary and store it. Then, when you need it, it is then transposed on the ovary and will continue to grow again. Then, you can have eggs.
What services have you seen a greater demand in the last few years?
All over the world now there is a resuscitation of IVF and we are paying more attention to men because we have seen that men have been neglected over the years. Most of the new things have been centered on women because how IVF started was the woman had two tubes tied because she had an ectopic pregnancy. But men are having fertility issues too, all over the world. Sperm counts are going down at an alarming rate.
What do you think is the cause of this?
Unfortunately, that is the million-dollar question. Nobody knows because there are so many factors involved. Climate change is definitely part of this, and of course lifestyle factors. We tend to sit longer and we live unhealthy lives. We drink more alcohol and engage in smoking. It is impacting fertility and that is one major aspect now all over the world. We need to catch up in solving male fertility problems. We are now trying to focus more on it. Everything is simple; the embryo you get comes from the quality of the egg and the sperm. Hence, the worse the quality of the sperm, the worse the quality of the embryo. Now we are seeing that we could get better results from IVF if we could fix the male problem as well. We thought initially we could bypass that problem because we thought that once the egg is fertilized by the sperm all our problems are over, but now because of genetics we are beginning to see that once the genes are already destroyed, the embryo cannot implant. So you cannot have a pregnancy. We are seeing that once the DNA is destroyed in the sperm, the chance of fertilization and pregnancy decreases.
Can you tell us how the plan is progressing for the new hospital and how do you plan to make it a reality?
The plan is progressing. It is an eye opener for me on a daily basis, because raising healthcare funds, especially in this part of the world, is a different ballgame. Healthcare here is not developed. If you want to have a world-class hospital it is tough. Every day you learn how complicated and complex it can be to really build a good hospital in this part of the world. I think today is better than yesterday and you just keep moving forward.