Onuoha Ukeh, Femi Babafemi And Priscilla Ediare
Given the lofty vision upon which it was founded and its Ivy-League DNA as conceived by its Founder, frontline legal icon, Aare Afe Babalola, OFR, CON, SAN, the wonders coming from Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, ABUAD, hardly astound anymore. From the time it opened its gates to students for Academic works on January 4, 2010, to its 10th year in 2020, the university has consistently taken one giant stride after another and very quickly, had established its credentials, not just as a leading university, but also as an embodiment of a 21st century university, a citadel of learning that soon became the trailblazer of the tertiary education ecosystem in the country and on the continent.
With remarkable growth that earned it the accolades of “the fastest-growing private university in Africa,” ABUAD, right from its early days had been a model of what university education should be: stable academic calendar, a well-stocked library, state-of-the-art laboratories, modern curriculum, excellent road network, spectacular academic achievements in the various colleges and many more.
Along the way, it won commendations notably from National Universities Commission (NUC), which hailed it as “a model, a benchmark, a reference point for other universities”, Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU), which declared it “the most successful private university in Nigeria.” UNESCO also described it as “a world-class institution of higher education,” while African Union called it a “Pan-African University.” These compliments are attestations of the impressive growth and development of an institution that had grown from an acorn into an oak in its first decade of existence.
In ABUAD, there is always something new in the offing, a surprise around the corner, a wonder waiting to happen. Presently, the unravelling wonder is the ABUAD Multi-System Hospital (AMSH)––a wonder of a hospital built on 60 hectares of land, an ultra-modern 400-bed Multi-System medical behemoth, commissioned on October 20, 2017, by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, on the occasion of the institution’s 5th Convocation, a healthcare facility poised to change the face of medicare in Nigeria, the answer to the country’s elite’s medical tourism abroad.
Five months after it was commissioned, the hospital formally commenced operation on March 21, 2018, a milestone, commemorated with a four-day free consultation and discounted service. From that day, the public had a glimpse of what was to come, a glimmer of hope that a boon has come to the country’s healthcare system. Two years later, on March 21, 2020, the hospital launched new facilities namely a Renal Centre with 16 dialysis machines, a Blood Bank and a Helipad as well as a Military Outpost to boost security.
Profile of a world-class hospital
The dire state of the country’s healthcare system––emasculated by a dearth of fund, replete with obsolete equipment and paralysed by incessant industrial actions––made the advent of ABUAD Multi-system Hospital (AMSH), a development of national significance, not least because of its trove of modern equipment.
The hospital’s modern medical facilities include a Diagnostic Centre equipped with MRI and CT scan machines, X-ray, ultrasound 2D, 3D and 4D; PET scan, ECG and Treadmill Test as well as Function Test (PFT), PET-Scan and Echocardiography, Bone Densitometry; and a laboratory, managed by the world-renowned Abbott Laboratory. Its medical Gas & Oxygen are supplied and managed by Protech Gas. It has also six Modular Theatres, while the 37 floors of the complex are connected by Pneumatic Tubes.
The hospital enjoys partnerships with several reputable health institutions and organisations across the globe. Its long list of partners includes Apollo Hospitals, Tristate Healthcare System, Insta-Focus Company, Abbot Laboratories, Project C.U.R.E., JNC International, Protech Gas, Adler, Howard University’s College of Pharmacy, Bridge of Life (BOL) as well as Care4You Association of Denmark among others. The partnerships ensure that different facets of the services offered by the hospital are of international standards.
The ABUAD Multisystem Hospital stands out as one where all medical services, simple and complex, are available. Its wide-ranging medical services encompass the regular practices and departments, such as Accident and Emergency, Surgery, Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Community Medicine. Similarly, both Outpatient and In-Patient services also extend to Cardiology, Endocrinology, Nephrology, Haematology, Oncology, Neurology and Paediatrics. A range of specialist services such as Physiotherapy, Dentistry, Fluoroscopy, Endoscopy, Colonoscopy, Gastroscopy, Bronchoscopy and Arthroscopy, among several others, further complements this.
Besides the scope, there is also depth in the available services at the hospital. In surgery, for instance, the hospital’s specialties span General, Plastic and Reconstructive surgeries. The hospital performs all forms of surgery, including breast surgery, liver surgery, neurosurgery, laparoscopy, endoscopy, ENT surgery, bariatric surgery as well as eye surgery.
One of the biggest boosts to its service is to be found in the area of Telemedicine services. The donation of Telemedicine equipment from Dubai’s Aster DM Healthcare, one of the technical partners of the hospital has imbued AMSH with the capacity to engage in teleconsulting, telediagnosis and telemanagement. What this means is that a patient could be in front of the telemedicine equipment in Ado-Ekiti and doctors in Dubai would collaborate in the process of diagnosis and prescription of the appropriate treatment. The Telemedicine equipment also allows Consultants in Dubai to join in any ongoing procedures in any of ABUAD’s six Modular Theatres and assist in whatever ways possible.
The hospital’s prime position in the healthcare delivery sector in Nigeria and beyond was further consolidated with the launch of its Renal Management Centre, which has the largest assemblage of Dialysis machines in any University Teaching Hospital on the continent.
The Centre, which has 16 Dialysis machines, was inaugurated on March 21, 2020; alongside a state-of-the-art Blood Bank and Transfusion Services and a Helipad to ease movement of patients to the hospital and the university.
Strings of success
Within two years of its commencement of operation, ABUAD Multi-System Hospital has been providing medical and surgical services that measured to the standard available in the best hospitals around the world.
The hospital has established a reputation as a leading centre for Heart and Vascular surgery. Its Cardiac Team has performed over 100 Open-heart surgeries and Cardiac interventional procedures, including multiple valve replacements, pacemaker insertions and repair of complex heart-birth defects.
The hospital has also built a reputation in Neurosurgery, starting from the widely reported two successful brain surgeries it conducted in six months. One of the surgeries was on a female patient who had an accident on her way to Maiduguri in 2009 and thereafter developed a severe headache on one side of her head.
Diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was brought to the hospital on Monday, June 8, 2020, after being in a semi-conscious state for three months, the patient’s surgical procedure on June 12, 2020 was successful and by June 15, her faculty was restored. Three days later, on June 18, she was discharged after spending 10 days on admission. The successful operation is one of the examples that reinforced ABUAD Multi-System Hospital’s capability to handle brain tumour and spine surgeries.
Of note in this regard is its capabilities in cutting-edge procedures such as Awake Neurosurgery (whereby the patient is awake while doctors operate on the brain), Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography, (a technique performed by highly-skilled and specialty-trained Gastroenterologists that combines the use of Endoscopy and Fluoroscopy to diagnose and treat problems of the biliary or pancreatic ductal systems) and Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery, FESS, recently carried out on a young female patient with a recurrent growth in the nostrils.
If anything, the success of the FESS––a surgical procedure using a minimally invasive technique with the advantage of short hospital stay and minimal intraoperative blood loss––is an indication that Nigerians no longer need to travel abroad for such medical procedures.
What’s more, the hospital now handles a broad spectrum of medical conditions that usually take wealthy Nigerians abroad: Surgical Oncology (with attention to breast, intestinal, liver and pancreatic cancers); Urological surgeries, Plastic surgeries (including Cosmetic and Restorative surgical procedures), Eye surgeries, Endoscopic and Laparoscopic surgeries (including ERCPs, stent placement etc), endoscopic Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeries (including hearing implants) and a full range of dental procedures (including major surgical and restorative interventions).
The addition of a Renal Dialysis Centre with 16 Dialyzers in March 2020 further negates any justification for any Nigerian to embark on medical tourism abroad. On average, the Renal Centre used to handle a dozen dialysis sessions per month, but in August, the figure rose to 104, as many more heard about it.
The affordability factor
With the public health system in comatose, Nigerians who could afford it had since resorted to seeking medicare services in private clinics. The trove of modern equipment and specialist services available at AMSH had led many to the wrong conclusion that treatment at the hospital is expensive. On the contrary, it is reasonably affordable. For instance, patients pay the sum of N1, 000 to see a doctor and N2, 000 to see a Specialist or a Consultant; when the sum of N1000 for registration is added, that brings the total to N 2,000 or N3, 000.
The speed at which patients are attended to at AMSH remains outstanding. On average, every patient sees the doctor within the shortest possible time of 30 minutes.
Its ICT driven, “paperless”, Information Management System takes care of patients’ registration electronically. From the reception, where a patient is registered, the information generated is immediately accessible to all the doctors. With the bottlenecks of queuing to open files and waiting to have nurses take vital signs trimmed off, it is thus possible for patients to sit face-to-face with doctors within the first few minutes of getting into the hospital.
As Prof. Fola Esan, the Chief Medical Director of AMSH affirms: “You can walk in here and you will be registered within minutes. One of our advantages and one of the things people are getting used to but find difficult to start with is that we don’t give you a card, everything is electronic. So the moment you come back again, you mention your name, somebody pushes the buttons and your number comes up, they know everything, but between your coming and your being registered is a very short time. How long it takes you to see a doctor thereafter I think is immensely short and it will depend on what brought you in.”
With this process, it is possible for a patient to be registered, examined, had a test X-ray, admitted and placed on antibiotic drip under 20 minutes. Nigerians who have over the years learnt to endure the rigours of going through public hospitals will no doubt appreciate the significance of this quick and seamless attention in a hospital.
The hospital through the eyes of patients
Stories about the excellent services at ABUAD Multi-System Hospital abound. The most famous one came from the first cardiovascular patient, Dr Bukola Balogun. Her recount, a good vicarious experience for the listener: “Looking at the Hospital from outside, it is simply gigantic. It is a brand new edifice. It is very clean with anti-slippery devices in place. When I was ushered into my ward after the preliminaries, I was wondering whether I was in a hospital ward or a 7-star hotel. The room is spacious, with a flat-screen television, refrigerator and microwave among others”.
She adds: “During the procedure proper, I was seen by a team of professors who told me the dos and don’ts. The theatre is fantastic. Each bed has its monitor that runs various tests ranging from blood sugar, blood pressure to pulse among others.”
Those words coming from her are weighty because she is a trained medical doctor. “I have been to many theatres in the world bearing in mind that I had my first degree from Moscow, the second from London and the third from the United States. I have not seen any theatre better than this one,” she avows. “During the procedure, I saw everything that went on, but I was not fully conscious as I was mildly sedated. It was a good experience.”
Balogun, drawing from her experience, believes “there is no point for anyone to go to Dubai, India or London for any form of medical treatment.” According to her, “Everything we need is here.”
Akomolafe, a surveyor, the second cardiac patient who had the opportunity of watching the person that was operated before him from a viewing centre in the hospital shared her view. “The type of equipment deployed and the personnel were simply great,’’ he muses.
ABUAD Multi-System Hospital is like an oasis in the desert. As indicated by the demographics, patients come from near and far, from states as far as Kwara and Lagos and in the far Northern states like Kano, Sokoto and Kebbi. So far, the hospital has treated approximately 17,000 patients from across the country in 2020.
Prof. Esan provides an insight: “People who had conditions and were treated successfully go out and publicise the hospital and that brings us patients; that is how we have risen to close to 17,000 patients in nine months, mostly referrals from those that have been treated here directly.”
Presently, its clientele has expanded to include people in government, especially political office holders. The list includes three ex-governors and a few monarchs and high-ranking chiefs, people who ordinarily would have gone to UK, US and India for annual medical checkup or health complication.
The hospital can also count among its clients, institutions such as African Development Bank (AfDB), the biggest bank in Africa, which has directed its staff all over Africa––mostly from Cameron and Cote D’ Ivoire and other places––to have their medical services attended to at AMSH.
As explained by Prof. Esan, by the time cost of airfare is factored in, a trip to India or anywhere in Europe becomes unreasonably expensive when the same quality of healthcare is available at AMSH.
“It is so much easier to come here virtually for everything and ultimately it will be for everything and we are making rapid progress,” he affirms.
Making a difference
The quality in the hospital leaves people overwhelmed with wonderment. Former Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who noted that AMH matches the best in the world, could not help but assert: “This Hospital will offer us what we hitherto believe cannot happen in this country.”
His statement simply confirmed the vision that drives the project. As disclosed by its Founder, Aare Afe Babalola: “The Multi-system Hospital is populated with the most modern and sophisticated medical equipment. We hired the best of human resources that will make it the hospital of the first choice in Africa.”
The quality, the sophistication of the hospital’s services, is what made the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi, to reflect: “If this facility had been in place sixty years ago, my daughter who was born in 1960, and who would have turned 60 this year would still have been alive today.”
Among those who have also expressed appreciation of the hospital is the former governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, who avers that “the amount of money committed to this project is almost immeasurable.”
Former Minister for Health Prof Adewole had no reservation about ABUAD Multi-System Hospital’s potential to improve Nigeria’s abysmal health indicators; just as well, he was positive it will put an end to the growing culture of embarking on medical tourism to other countries among wealthy Nigerians. That exactly is one of the objectives of the hospital––to reduce the huge amount of money Nigerians spend on medicare abroad.
The story of ABUAD Multi-System Hospital is like a case of bringing the mountain to Mohammed, quality healthcare of international standard delivered to the doorsteps of Nigerians at affordable cost by ABUAD’s Multi-System Hospital.
For the Founder, it is not just enough to have this Mecca of quality healthcare service; he is not resting on his oars until the sustainability of the hospital is assured. “We deliberately put in place a special arrangement to bring our overseas partners to join our consultants to treat such cases at a considerably reduced cost,” he explains.
Similarly, accessibility is another priority for him. It was to this end that the institution built the Helipad that was commissioned in March. Even though Ekiti, the state where AMSH is located is yet to have an Airport, the hospital’s management worked to ensure that the poor road network of the country would not discourage clients who want to fly in from any part of the country.
Generally in ABUAD, the wheel of progress turns day and night. Even as you read this, ABUAD Multi-System Hospital is ramping up its capacity to handle some of the major health conditions that take Nigerians abroad, notably renal transplant and complicated cardiac conditions.
Of this, Aare Babalola affirms: “We have rebuilt and revalidated our Cardiac Centre, which is now functionally sound, we built and commissioned Blood Transfusion service which is unique in this country and other things and plans were being hatched as to how the Blood Transfusion service can lead to renal transplantation.”
Other developments in the offing include ongoing improvement process of the hospital’s Radiological service (which may soon be getting more equipment like Positron Emission Tomography (PET)), the plan to develop a Cancer Centre and the soon-to-be-completed Molecular Laboratory.
There is no room for doubt about the sustainability of the good run by AMSH. “With the facilities we have put in this Multi-System Hospital and the world-class consultants and other professionals of international repute that will teach and mentor our medical students, the doctors we will be producing like their peers in other disciplines who have graduated from here, will be high flyers, society changers and great Ambassadors of this university,” the Founder asserts.
The hospital’s Cardiac Team, capable of performing Heart transplant, for example, is an expatriate team, mostly Indians, who are full-time staff. Other departments have expatriate staff, including three expatriate Nurses––two Indian and a nurse from Dakar––in the ICU, Dialysis Centre and Radiology Department. The advantage of having the expatriates on a fulltime basis is to help to develop the Nigerian staff.
Esan, the Chief Medical Director, gives an instance: “[When] the Nepalese Nurse that pioneered the Renal Dialysis Centre departed after a year, she handed over the development to a very capable Nigerian. The same development for the cardiologists. We are training our people so that they can take over, so it is not that they come in and go out, they are full-time here and are working all the time.”
The 81-year-old CMD who has been directing the affairs of the hospital since April 1, 2019, has a clear idea of where the hospital should be in another five years ––“The very best in Africa and one of the very best in the whole world.”
He is wary of the fact that Rome was not built in a day, and that it takes time to consolidate and develop a reputation, he is, nonetheless, certain that the hospital will continue to wax stronger. “Among our peers, we will certainly be number one,” he pledged.
Having built a medical utopia where the average Nigerian can access quality healthcare of international standard as well as the elite, who used to go abroad for such services, one cannot but agree with Aare Afe Babalola when he avowed that “We are here to change the world.”