GENEROUS ST. NICK

Nigeria 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Oladapo Majekodunmi, CEO of St. Nicholas Hospital, on supplying affordable healthcare, encouraging trust in Nigeria's healthcare providers, and developing the industry.

Dr. Oladapo Majekodunmi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Oladapo Majekodunmi completed his medical training in 1989 at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital, Lagos. Following this, he went to the UK to do his postgraduate training in obstetrics and gynaecology and became a member of the Royal College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology in 1997. In 1998, he returned to Nigeria and began working at St. Nicholas Hospital as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. In 2000 he was appointed medical director of St. Nicholas Hospital. He has been the force behind the on-going growth of St. Nicholas Hospital and opened new clinics in Victoria Island, (S.N.H Clinics) and Maryland (Maryland Specialist Hospital).

In early 2017, the hospital was listed by the Lagos Stock Exchange as one of the fastest-growing companies in Africa. What was the main driver behind this success?

The hospital has grown rapidly in the past five years, and since 1999 we have opened new clinics, increased our staffing, and put in place new processes and protocols. Our competitive edge is our ability to remain focused on providing quality healthcare. I look at other hospitals not as competitors, but as being in the same business of trying to provide quality and effective healthcare for the large population. The whole point is to provide quality healthcare at a reasonable cost, and we focus on that without cutting corners. There is a large gap in providing affordable healthcare. There are more entrants coming into the medical space, many coming from abroad from places such as India and Turkey. This proves that the healthcare business in Nigeria is vibrant, and there are untapped opportunities.

What should be done to reverse the trend of people seeking treatment abroad?

A great deal has to do with confidence in our system, and part of this is educating people and giving them examples of what has to be and can be done. Healthcare institutions have to showcase their achievements. We can safely perform various treatments here; however, people still go abroad for operations, mainly to the UK. It is a matter of building confidence through publications, demonstrations, and citing examples. There are other problems: Some hospitals and practitioners are not up to scratch, so more work has to be done by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to sanction and enforce regulations of what can and cannot be done in a hospital. My role in building up trust in Nigerian doctors is by running a company that patients can trust.

What can the government do to boost the healthcare sector?

The government and Ministry of Health can do more to equip the doctors with what they need to do their jobs. In the teaching hospitals, they need to do audits just to raise standards. Trying to do something with the government is extremely difficult; in addition, the sector needs stricter regulations and controls that must be enforced. The government needs to provide an enabling environment that encourages 'reverse' brain drain. Another important aspect of our trade is tools and medication. The cost of equipment is astronomical due to exchange rates and import taxes, as we do not manufacture equipment necessary for meaningful healthcare. Routine medical consumables, from the disposable couch covers or paper hand towels to disposable gloves, are more expensive that they ought to be. Drugs for some chronic ailments, immunosuppressants, and chemotherapy are beyond the reach of most of the people that require them, leading to avoidable deaths, 'poor' treatment, and various societal anomalies. Unless there is a determined effort by the government to review the healthcare space in Nigeria holistically, we will continue to lag behind our peer nations.

What are your expectations for 2018?

The hospital will expand in 2018. I would like to increase our bed numbers; we currently have 65 beds in two hospitals and I would like to increase that to the hundreds. Also, I would like to perhaps open another hospital. In terms of the general operating environment, a great deal depends on things that are not under anyone's control. I do not think anything drastic will happen. In 2018, the country will prepare for the next election and that will have an impact on the economy as a whole. We do not expect any adverse effects on our business and hope to continue what we do as best as we can.