PRIMUS HOSPITAL, KARU, ABUJA IS RUN BY INDIAN AND NIGERIAN MEDICAL EXPERTS. IT WAS HOWEVER ENMESHED IN A CONTROVERSY RECENTLY FOR ALLEGEDLY MISHANDLING A PATIENT’S CASE, A MATTER THAT HAS AFFECTED ITS CREDIBILITY. THE HOSPITAL EXPLAINS THE CASE AND OTHER HEALTH ISSUES TO IKE ABONYI AND PAUL OBI
When THISDAY team set out to visit an Abuja based Indian managed hospital—Primus Specialty International Hospital located in Karu, the mission was clearly a fact finding one following the barrage of media reports about the hospital in recent time. The impression was that the Indians came, and are doing illegal business in Nigerian by using quacks and obsolete medical equipment. Agitating the minds of many Nigerians was why the Federal Government and other relevant regulatory bodies should sit and watch Nigerians being duped, maimed by quacks in such sensitive sector like health.
But after over two hours in the hospital inspecting equipments, talking with staff, patients and the management of the hospital the journalists left with a different impression that the hospital might just be victim of competition and hostile environment arising also from the Indian style of refusing to play game. In an interview with THISDAY, the Managing Director and Chairperson of the Hospital, Dr. Achla Dewan asked rhetorically what offence they committed by bringing such huge investment to Nigeria.
Unknown to many Nigerians, the health sector is a very lucrative both in terms of budgetary allocations and turnover of cash for the practitioners. But the most money-spinning sub-sector for private healthcare providers in the nation’s health system is foreign and medical tourism. Nigerians for instance, spend approximately N180 billion annually on foreign medical trips. Most of such funds and resources find their way to India, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the United States. In all these, India is the chief beneficiary. Here is where, Primus International Hospital comes in. The hospital, an authority in tertiary health services in India is believed to command international respect, as it is located within the diplomatic zone in New Delhi. It also has branches across Indian.
With its proximity to embassies in New Delhi, patients across the globe visited Primus Hospital constantly seeking medical help. Majority of those patients were more of Nigerians. From the officials, such Nigerians were from the top echelon of the society, ranging from ministers, National Assembly members, diplomats, business class and other government functionaries. In fact, the idea to come to Nigeria was first nurtured by a top government official. In 2010, during the era of Muhammed Aliero’s tenure as the FCT Minister, Primus Hospital entered to an agreement with the authorities based on Public Private Partnership (PPP). The idea was to build a complete five star international hospital, it was then decided that since FCDA had an existing facility, it was better to contract it through the PPP model.
In 2010, when they arrived at the instance of signing the agreement, the Federal Executive Council was dissolved. And with the appointment of a minister in the person of Senator Bala Muhammed, the minister had to review the project. Narrating their experience to THISDAY, Dr. Dewan said unknown to Primus Hospital, the minister had visited the hospital in New Delhi while he was Senator when his mother was ill. So, considering the efficiency and effectiveness the minister witnessed, there was no difficulty in sealing the deal. At the end, the FCDA authority lease 40 per cent of the health facility, leading to the commencement of work.
She said their intention to come to Nigeria was to bring medicare nearer to Nigerians. She explained that most Nigerians who visit India always come there when their health situation has worsen, adding that no matter the expertise, there is a limit to what medical help can do. “You see, when we were in India, we used to get many patients, and most of them were Nigerians. Most people coming to India were thinking that everything is going to be resolved, but medical science has its limitation, we tell them, we can help you but the condition you have come in now, there’s hardly anything we can do. I met many patients, you know, Nigerians are like Indians, very close to their families.”
She went further to state that high number of Nigerians coming to India become a source of concern to the Nigerian High Commission in New Delhi, later, the High Commission then contacted her. After the initial formalities, Primus Hospital commenced operation in April 2011,”with high and reliable manpower.”
Suddenly, the Fibroid case came up, “you know, anywhere, something can happen during operation, so we did the surgery, she had fibroid, small particles were removed, and then there was fibroid again. She came back to us, then we said, we’ll carry another operation, she said no, no, no, I don’t want to come to Primus again, maybe, she got into few wrong hands, I don’t want to comment on that. Because, we were ready to operate her again, she said no, I don’t want to come to Primus, and that she wanted compensation. It’s as if she was with some people who wanted this thing to be flared up. For us, we were waiting for the medical council to investigate, meanwhile, she went to the court, we were surprised, because in India, you cannot take the doctor to court, it’s only consumer’s court. But in this case, they started broadcasting it on the radio,” she said.
Dewan told THISDAY that the challenge has been huge given the cost and sacrifice of leaving India to Nigeria. “It’s very disappointing, we’re helping humanity, we’ve come all the way, our doctors, it’s easy for us to come all away to start a hospital because Nigerians need it.” The Primus Hospital boss said their prices are comparable within the market. “Nobody can be charged more than N8,000 for one week, they are busy writing that we charge N25, 000 to N30, 000, I don’t know where they got all this from.”
The hospital’s Superintendent and a retired Nigerian soldier, Colonel Eugene Emordi regretted that rather put more energy in revamping the hospital and health services, much of it is now deployed to defend and explain negativity fabricated by unscrupulous persons bent on damaging the good intentions of Primus Hospital management. “The energy we’ll have used providing good services is now being used to tell people the good intentions you had in coming into the country, how much you want to contribute to healthcare, with this, we end up trivialising healthcare,” Emordi, a medical doctor said.
Concerning the qualifications of the Indian doctors, again, Dewan said the process of recruiting the medical personnel was thorough. She stated that most of the doctors working at the hospital have carried out between 50-100 surgeries and operations as part of their experience. Beside, the management also attest to the fact that it recruitment policy is in line with the government’s quota system for foreign companies. To that extent, the Ministry of Interior has certified its Indian medical personnel to carry out their work. Not only that, Nigerians is also being given the opportunity to ply their trade. Only recently, the hospital was accredited to run intent programmes for medical students’ training.
Inspecting the hospital, there was no doubt that the infrastructure and equipment were of international standards. From the Mammography, Ultra Sound Laboratory, T.M.T Echo to the Stroke Centre and Brain Tumor treatment, the equipment were state-of-the-art medical facilities comparable anywhere in the world. Other facilities in the hospital and functional include Cast Rooms, complete Imaging Support such64 Slice and bone density, bone densitometry, extracorporeal shock wave therapy. More so, the hospital carries out kidney transplant, reconstructive and urology surgery.
Again, the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency have accredited some of the hospital’s X-ray machines, where the agency certified its facilities capable of carrying out some x-ray for medical purposes without causing any damage through radiation and otherwise. Emordi told THISDAY that all the departments in the hospital have been accredited by the respective regulatory councils and the efficacy of services rendered verified as well.
Further findings also showed that there was no difference between an Indian hospital in New Delhi and Abuja, in terms of the class of Nigerians who patronise the facilities. From top government officials, National Assembly members and other wealthy Nigerians.
A patient, Liman Ibrahim, told THISDAY that the care he received so far within the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) had tremendously improved his health than when he first came into the hospital. As prove of patients’ satisfaction, part of the notice board reflects patient’s testimonies and the treatment received.
Emordi further explained that the whole negative reports is part of the conspiracy by those who have been feeding fat from fictitious reversals. According to him, the coming of Primus Hospital from New Delhi to Abuja amount putting a stop to their business. Hence, the need to pull down the management and give the hospital a bad name. “People are trivialising health in this country, just for the benefits that comes with it,” he said.
Basically, and going by the facilities seen on ground, it’s hard to believe that quacks could manage any of such sophisticated equipment. According to the hospital officials, the fibroid case was just an issue of communication. But the hospital management must also do more in convincing Nigerians that its facilities are update and medical personnel are all well equipped to handle all medical cases. In a country, where traveling abroad for medical help brings more riches to some underground agents who engage in fraudulent referrals and foreign medical service, it’ll be a hard knock to crack for a foreign hospital to want to block that channel.