“Nigeria’s Healthcare Challenges Present Investment Opportunities”

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Martins Ifijeh

The Managing Director, The Bridge Clinic, Dr. Richardson Ajayi, has called on stakeholders in the international healthcare industry to look at the health issues in Nigeria and other developing countries as opportunities for investment.

Ajayi, who made the call in his presentation at the 2016 Healthcare Business International Conference, held at the Royal College of Physicians, Regent’s Park, London recently, said that a private sector-driven service delivery holds the future in the in Nigerian healthcare sector.

He informed the gathering of policy makers, operators and investors in the health sector from many parts of the world that Nigeria’s public health facilities will not be able to meet the healthcare requirements of the emerging middle class in Nigeria.

According to him, Nigerians who can afford it are already spending their healthcare dollars abroad as official statistics inform that Nigerians spend in excess of one billion dollars on healthcare abroad annually. The actual figure will be much larger than this when one considers that the unofficial sector is not represented in this figure. About 60 per cent of this amount is spent on heart, kidney, orthopedics and cancer-related health issues. Fertility, maternity and urology are major specialties in the remaining 40 per cent. These specialties, he said, reflect major opportunities for investments.

In his paper titled, ‘Healthcare Investing in Nigeria: Igniting the Opportunity’, Ajayi informed the participants that one of the major challenges in the sector in Nigeria and other developing countries was the absence of a developed healthcare ecosystem which makes service delivery inefficient and expensive for the emerging middle class in these countries.

Ajayi, one of the international resource persons who presented papers at the two-day event, said; “A private sector-driven healthcare system will build an efficient healthcare ecosystem that will address the shortcomings of the public sector facilities and minimize out-bound medical tourism.”

He listed some of the challenges inhibiting the development of Nigeria’s healthcare ecosystem to include poor regulatory framework and weak consumer protection, poor referral culture, lack of health support schemes like health insurance, inefficiencies in medical consumable procurements and high costs of equipment installation and maintenance. Others are high operational costs arising from poor infrastructure, poor management systems, low personnel capacity, and high cost of finance among others.

According to Ajayi, these challenges limit healthcare development because these inefficiencies are generally passed on to the consumer who sees quality healthcare as expensive healthcare. “This limits the opportunity as there are few Nigerians who can afford the higher cost of quality care. Quality is non-negotiable in healthcare delivery because we are dealing with human lives and so we have to work hard to make quality healthcare affordable to all.”

He advocated for the development of an ecosystem based on the focused factories approach, which focuses on facilities that deal with particular specialties either in the support services and service platforms. In this approach, support services include pathology, imaging, equipment maintenance, consumable and pharmaceutical supplies health insurance etc. and the service platforms are primary care clinics, small hospitals and surgery centers and specialty clinics.

“This business model reduces the complexity of engagement, is easier to build staff capacity, easier to manage and deliver quality care and is more efficient than the integrated care models. Further efficiencies can be gained by building healthcare business models that can be scaled,” the managing director of The Bridge Clinic said.

These focused factories, according to him, will have independent corporate structure, independent CEO and management team, and a strategic international partner that is experienced in international operations, organised for international operations, must have an African strategy, must be interested in local development, and must have a long term financial plan.

Ajayi called the attention of the audience to the various successes recorded by The Bridge Clinic and PathCare Laboratories Nigeria as case studies of the virility of the focused factories approach in building an efficient healthcare ecosystem in Nigeria.

The Healthcare Business International Conference brings together large operators and investors from various parts of the world to discuss the private healthcare services industry internationally. The conference is organised by the Healthcare Business International, the only subscription publisher to focus on private healthcare services in Europe and Emerging Markets. The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Breaking Barriers’ to reflect the way hundreds of operators are breaking national borders.