‘ESTABLISHING OUR HOSPITAL IN OUR HOME – TOWN IS OUR OWN LITTLE WAY OF GIVING BACK TO THE SOCIETY’
Lifecare Hospital is a leading hospital in Ondo State, South –West, Nigeria. It is situated at Ode-Ayeka, Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State. Honestly, no hospital, both private and public, including the State Specialist Hospital, has done better than this health institution in Okitipupa and its environs these last few years. No wonder it was rated one of the best in Ondo, Ekiti, and Osun states in a survey carried out by THE HERO in her efforts to uncover the mess in private hospitals in the country.
In this interview with IBIKUNLE IKUYINMINU, Editor and Head Special Projects, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) Dr. Adebayo Akinmo speaks on his journey into the medical career, the passion to give back to the society and the challenges of practice in one’s place of birth. Excerpts:
The starting point for this interview is to ask you to tell us a little about yourself for the benefit of some of our readers who may not be too familiar with you.
My name is Dr. Adebayo Akinmo. I am a Medical Doctor. I was born and brought up in Okitipupa Community. I am also an indigene of the community, that is, Idepe-Okitipupa. I was born sometimes in 1982 to the family of Mr. Martins Akinmo and Mrs. Modupe Akinmo. Around the year 1980s, I started my Primary School around 1989 at St. Mary Primary School, Okitipupa. It is a Catholic school. I finished my primary school around the year 1992/1993. So after finishing my primary school education, I proceeded to Manuwa Memorial Grammar School, Iju-Odo between 1993 and 1999, and later from Manuwa Memorial Grammar School, I had this dream to become a Medical Doctor. So I wrote the University Matriculation Examination (UME) for about 3 years. Of course, I wanted to go to the University of Ilorin but I ended up going to the University of Ife, that is Obafemi Awolowo University. I gained admission there in the year 2002. I finished in the year 2011 and I became a Medical Doctor. Thereafter, I did my internship at Ife. I went for the interview and I did well and I was at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital for a year of internship. Thereafter, I proceeded to Edo State for my NYSC at Emorem Local Government where I became, I emerged the best Corps Member for that year and I was awarded as the best Corps Member in my Local Government and from there I proceeded to work in Lagos in some private hospitals, including Prince and Princess Hospital at Egbeda. After that year, I changed location to River State, precisely Boni in Ogoni Land to work for another year in 2015 in a private hospital. In the year 2015, I decided to come back home to serve my people with the experience I have gathered, especially in the private practice. I set up this hospital, Lifecare Hospital here in Ode-Aiyeka, in Okitipupa Local Government Area of the state in the year 2015 and we started full operations in May, 2015. And since then, we have always had reasons to thank God for this far we have gone.
You said you wanted to go to the University of Ilorin, but you ended up going to Obafemi Awolowo University. How come you prefer Ilorin to Ife when the latter is better rated in the eyes of the people?
Well, let me simply say this. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
At what point in your life did you make up your mind that you would study Medicine and Surgery?
That decision was made when I was in Primary 5 at St. Mary’s RCM Primary School, Okitipupa. And I will tell you the story. I have a friend, both of us were academically sound. That my friend was even appointed the Senior Prefect of the school when we got to Primary 6. And our class teacher in Primary 6 also helped to encourage the dream. That was late Mr. Ifeolu who was the Proprietor of Ifeolu Bookshop in Okitipupa. He was our class teacher in Primary 6. He discovered the talent in us and he helped us to actualize that dream of either becoming a doctor or an engineer. That my friend is also a Doctor, a consultant resident in Australia today.
How has it been practicing in an environment of your birth, given the fact that prophets are not always respected at home?
There is a common saying that a Prophet does not have value in his own land. But thank God, our own Prophet, we have value in our home town. The main challenge we have is that initially when you find yourself back in your environment to alleviate the health problems of your people, there is a kind of sceptism that comes with it initially. This saying … the son of so, so, so and so person, is now a Doctor. When did he start? Is he capable? You know, this is the kind of sceptism that comes in initially. People are sceptical about your capability, especially when you consider the fact that the percentage of the educated ones is less than that of the ignorant majority. But when they come to see your performance, your handwork, your monumental successes, they start believing in you and they start erasing those sceptism. So those are the initial challenges, the sceptism. That apart, when you are practicing in an environment where people know you and your background, they tend to underprice you. You know, I am so, so, so person to you. I am your brother, I am your uncle, I am your mother’s friend and all of that. I don’t have money and you just have to treat my case. In other words, you will be greeted with the finance as people don’t pay enough for medical services rendered to them, unlike what they would pay other medical practitioners who are not from this town. Either they pay or they don’t pay, we still have to get going, do the work and meet the health needs of our people. God is the ultimate rewarder of labour. And there is a common saying in Ilaje that “Ule nuse”. So we just have to give back to the community that made us. It is more or less a sort of community service, or giving back to the society.
Alright, in a survey carried out by our undercover reporters on the mess in private hospitals in the country (especially in Ondo, Osun and Ekiti States), your hospital emerged as one of the few ones that truly meet the requirements of a standard hospital. What is the magic wand and to what would you attribute this rare feet?
The magic wand is God. I will first and foremost return all glory to God because they say doctors treat but God heals. And anybody that believes in the Bible as a Christian will understand that the spiritual controls the physical. And there is another saying that when you know your work, you stand tall among your equals. So we bless God for the background. We grounded our foundation very well to make sure we know what we are doing. To make sure we cope with the little finances, because we live in a low resource settings. But with the available resources, no matter how small or meagre, we still try to give our best. We try to apply our best, our energy, our brains, to give the best. So I think apart from God, the second secret is giving out our best, the best possible we can give, even with the available resources.
We hear rumours that the permanent site for the Institution of the Hospital has been acquired, but we only deem it fit to hear from the horse’s mouth.
Yes, nothing can be truer than that. Our permanent site is under construction. It is a standard hospital facility, the location of which is along Igodan Expressway, close to the Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH), and it is at the broad street, and it is a storey building facility while we hope to commission it before the end of this year or early next year.
That is great. But in the interim, will you be kind enough to specify the various departments within the present hospital premises and the functions of each?
Yes, within the present hospital premises, we have the OPD. OPD is an acronym for Out Patients Department. That is the first department you get to in the hospital, apart from the security unit which is not a medically-related unit. This department is where you see patients who need to see the doctor where they don’t need to be admitted. We also have accidents and emergencies department. This is where we receive accident victims and emergency patients as they are ushered into the hospital. The essence of this facility is for the usual first aids given to such victims and patients. Then, apart from the OPD and the Emergency wards, we have wards where we admit patients generally. We have female wards, we have male wards. We also have labour rooms for pregnant women who want to deliver. We also have theatre where we carry out our surgical cases. Then, we also have laboratories where we do basic tests, blood, urine and other parasitological examinations. Then we also have what we call VIP wards where we admit people who don’t want to be in the general ward for private treatments. We also have facility for scan, that is ultra-scan facility where we do general scan, ultra-scan for pregnant women.For general scan, both males and females. for now, these are the basic facilities we have.
Ok, talking about the practice of medicine in Nigeria today, you will agree with me, Doctor, that cases abound of some sharp practices among these professionals. Is this to say that the ethical standards need to be reviewed?
No, no, no, it is not about the ethical standards. There is no need to amend the ethical standards. They are adequately okay, I mean the provisions of the ethics are adequate, but we just need to enforce the said provisions. We need more enforcement. We need more monitoring from the national bodies overseeing the affairs of the practitioners. But there is a common saying that there is always a bad egg everywhere, even in priesthood, in the legal profession, in fact, every profession. Medical profession is not the only one where you have bad eggs. Every part of the world, you have some corrupt elements….
(Cuts in) Let’s talk about the rate at which Nigerians, especially public office holders, jet out of the country for health reasons. In fact, the ease with which they go there to treat even symptons of malaria, to me, is a loud rejection of Nigeria’s medical facilities. What can you say about this?
The essence of, or the main reason behind Medical Personnel going out of the country is to seek greener pastures because Nigeria is not.
(Cuts in again) Doc, I am not talking about medical practitioners moving out, I am talking of the drift of people abroad, especially politicians to assess medical facilities outside the country.
You see, the problem with our country is that we despise everything Nigeria. We don’t value what we have. And another thing, another character or behavior we have is ego. It is borne out of ego. A black doctor cannot treat me. I want a white doctor to treat me. Or you want to prove to the people that you are being treated in the U.K. You are receiving malaria treatment in the states. It’s borne out of ego. Even Lord Luggard made similar comments about black people, that we like ego, we like pride, we like to show up, we like big regalia. To me, it’s borne out of ego and ignorance. It’s out of ignorance and ego because the whites would not do that. They cannot afford to leave their countries to say they want to go abroad for treatment where such treatment can be undergone comfortably in their own countries.
And so, as a Medical Practitioner, what solutions do you feel like suggesting to ameliorate the trends?
The government has a big role to play in this connection. One, we need education. We need to educate our people the more. So, the government is the one controlling everybody. The government has to educate us all, both the elites, the rich and the poor, on the need to patronize the local health workers, so that it will help to boost or increase their morales. Let me also remarkably say this; when we abandon our own health facilities and patronize another country’s own, you are indirectly bringing a decline in our health care system, because when we abandon our health system for the already developed ones of the advanced nations, we are indirectly killing our own health system, our local health system. So the government is duty-bond to educate the people more on the need to patronize our home made facilities. Then, the government should make legislation to discourage people from going out to treat minor ailments that we can treat here in Nigeria, because as it is, that will not make our own health system to grow.
You talked about your establishment giving back to the society, talking about giving back to the host community. Please tell us in greater details the extent to which Lifecare Hospital, your brainchild, has given back to the society in her Corporate Social Responsibility efforts.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a prerequisite for any business to grow. I understand that position given the fact that I also have a Masters Degree in Business Administration. We use Corporate Social Responsibility as a tool to develop our business, but it is also an obligation for any business to give out to the people where it practices. One way we have been giving back, apart from the subsidized health services we give to our people, even when they do not bring money, we will make sure we render our services. Our mandate is to care for life first. Apart from this, when the host communities have one project or the other, we try as much as possible to support financially and in any other ways we can contribute. For example, when a community hall was to be built for Aiyeka Ule, donations were called for and we gave our own widow’s might to contribute towards the said building. And when there are some other pressing issues in the community, they write to us as stakeholders. We contribute our quotas. Even recently, you will recall that the Endsars protests led to the demolition of the council secretariat by the protesters. Eventually, when the reroofing was to be carried out, the people reached out to us and we made our own donation. Nobody mandated us. But we see this as an obligation, a Corporate Social Responsibility to give back to the society.
And on a final note, how do you unmind after a typical day’s job?
The most important thing I do to unmind is relaxing with my family. And two, I will sit in a cool environment, maybe an eatery or a beer parlour, with a couple of friends, and we make merriment together, while we talk all along.
It’s a pleasure talking to you these last 40 minutes, Doc.
Oh, the pleasure is mine. Kind regards.