TBY talks to Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, Managing Director of Nordica Fertility Centre, on the challenges facing the industry and what its center is doing to educate people, raise standards, and ultimately make Nigeria the region's medical tourism destination.

Dr. Abayomi Ajayi
Dr. Abayomi Ajayi graduated from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos; completed his postgraduate training at the University College Hospital. He joined Lagoon Hospital, Apapa as Consultant in Obstetrics & Gynecology and held this position till 2002 when he left to start Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos. He received training in IVF at the Iscare Centre for Assisted Reproduction in Bratislava, as well as the Institute of Human Reproduction Symbion, Fruebjerguej and the Fertility Clinic of Copenhagen University, Herlev Hospital, both in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is the country’s representative of Obgyn.net and is member of many international professional associations, including the Global Health Council and Board member of International Society for Invitro Fertilization.

What is the history and background of the Nordica Fertility Centre?

Nordica Fertility Centre was founded in 2003, and today we have four clinics: two in Lagos, one in Asaba, and one in Abuja. We provide high-end services in IVF, and we believe people will also benefit from good maternal and child healthcare; therefore, we are looking at how to go into that field. We want to have a proper mother and child hospital in Lagos and ultimately to extend that to other parts of Nigeria. With IVF, some 25% of pregnancies result in multiple births, which is a higher risk pregnancy, and, therefore, you need good facilities to take care of these mothers and babies. Also, there are quite a number of premature births, which require good facilities to give these babies a better chance of survival.

What steps and strategy are you taking to make this mother & child hospital a reality?

We have started with the first phase, which is to acquire the land for the hospital. Now, we are looking at signing partnerships with hospitals or hospital groups from other parts of the world. This will bring high-quality standards from other countries into Nigeria. We need a partner that understands that the healthcare needs in Africa are different to other parts of the world. We do not want a partner that simply wants to transplant their operational procedures and apply them here. You have to understand the local people in order for your business to succeed. We want partners that are as willing to learn from us as we are from them. It needs to be a combination of international and local knowledge coming together.

How has the Nigerian population welcomed artificial fertilization methods?

It is getting better by the day. Everyone appreciates the fact that sometimes nature needs help, which is what we do. There is still some religious and cultural resistance; however, it is getting better. Nordica Fertility Centre has been at the forefront of educating people and we are also strong on CSR and giving back to the community. This has made us one of the major thought leaders in the sector. We have been active in educating both the public and medical professionals. We do a lot of medical education in every aspect of assisted reproduction. This field is not part of the mainstream medical education that doctors receive in Nigeria; hence, we have been at the forefront of trying to help the profession, as well as the public, understand how IVF works.

How would you characterize the legal framework of healthcare and the fertility segment in particular?

There is almost no legal framework in the fertility segment. The Nigerian National Assembly is trying to work out a few issues. When you are talking about fertility it is important to be cautious and not create a knee-jerk reaction leading to the passing of laws that will hinder much-needed development in the field further. It is an emotional topic and while we need to regulate we need to be professional and scientific about it. It is important for practitioners to be involved in this process too so we can come out with the best framework for the industry.

What are your expectations for 2017?

Our ambition is to have found a good partner so that we can achieve our plans for a hospital. We need a chain of hospitals to reduce mortality rates and improve the quality of care available and also help reverse the trend for medical tourism, today Nigerians spend about USD1 billion per year going abroad for medical treatment. In terms of medical quality, Nordica has ISO certification because we want to match the high standards that are present in other parts of the world. Nigerians should be assured that when we open our hospitals they will tally with international standards. We want to provide the same level of service that people can get in more developed parts of the world.