Dr Wale Alabi is a well-known name in the Nigerian healthcare industry, being one of the thought leaders that birthed the Nigerian Healthcare Excellence Awards (NHEA). He was also part of the team that organised the first indigenous healthcare exhibition in West Africa (The West Africa Health Expo). Passionate about corporate healthcare, technology in medicine and hospital management, he is currently CEO of Hospital Assist Nigeria, a leading healthcare management with reputable international affiliations. In this exclusive interview with PATRICK IWELUNMOR, he shares his thoughts on sundry issues pertaining to the Nigerian healthcare sector. EXCERPTS:
Sir, may we know about you and your educational background?
I was born in Lagos but I am an indigene of Osun State. My parents were Chief Aderah Alabi and Chief Mrs. Iyabo Alabi.
My secondary education was at Federal Government College, Ogbomosho and my tertiary education was at the University College Hospital Ibadan, where I earned an MBBS degree. I also obtained an MPhil degree from the Christian Medical College, Vellore, India.
In addition, I got a postgraduate diploma in Medical Information from the University of Texas and a postgraduate diploma in Hospital Accreditation from the Academy of Hospitals Administration in India.
Why are you not practising as a medical doctor?
After my graduation, I worked as a medical officer for a few years and realised that there was a great need to be met in the areas of corporate healthcare, technology in medicine, and hospital management. As a result, I decided to focus on developing capacity in those three areas.
In line with my resolve, I visited a lot of countries to enable me understudy their healthcare systems. This required huge investment, in terms of my personal resources. The countries I visited were The Netherlands, Spain, Ghana, Turkey, and India, among others.
While on my trips, I was opportune to meet with stakeholders in both public and private sectors, which availed me the opportunity to discuss intricate aspects of their healthcare systems and understand vital issues bordering on the technicalities of creating and maintaining a standard healthcare system, in line with international best practices.
Presently, I am the CEO of Hospital Assist Nigeria, one of Nigeria’s leading healthcare consulting companies.
You are most popular for your activities with the Nigerian Healthcare Excellence Awards. What is the secret behind this passion?
Thank you for this question. Before NHEA, I was involved in organising the first indigenous healthcare exhibition in West Africa (The West Africa Health Expo) which was launched in the year 2006. We organised more than 10 exhibitions in Lagos, Abuja and Accra, Ghana.
The idea of NHEA was birthed and nurtured in 2013, in collaboration with some of my colleagues who believed there was a need to create a platform whereby individuals and organisations (healthcare champions) can be appreciated for their tremendous contributions to healthcare. This is in addition to encouraging a healthy competition in various aspects of healthcare, so as to promote quality service delivery to citizens. My passion for this award stems from my mantra of continuous improvement in all areas of life.
Do you think the Nigerian healthcare space is doing enough in terms of the delivery of quality medical care to the people, especially the common man?
I believe that we have recorded great improvement in the last 10 years. There has been an increase in the availability of healthcare insurance for citizens; development of better healthcare infrastructures, both in the public and the private sectors; and the treatment of chronic diseases, such as cancer and kidney disease, are adequately carried out in country.
Nigeria presently has a centre of excellence in oncology, care of orthopaedics and kidney disease. I believe the new National Health Act will give the common man more access to healthcare and health insurance will become mandatory for all citizens of Nigeria.
Can you enlighten Nigerians on the vision and mission of the Nigerian Healthcare Excellence Awards?
The Nigerian Healthcare Excellence Awards vision is to promote excellence and innovation in healthcare delivery in Nigeria by recognising and celebrating the achievements of healthcare professionals and organisations. The vision of the award is to be Nigeria’s most prestigious and most credible healthcare award, while the mission is to encourage professionalism, international best practices in quality healthcare delivery, as well as create awareness about the importance of healthcare in Nigeria.
Would you say the award has impacted the healthcare industry, in terms of growth and quality assurance?
Yes. The award has had a significant impact on Nigeria’s healthcare industry. The recognition and reward of outstanding healthcare professionals and organisations has encouraged excellence and improvement in healthcare delivery. This has led to growth and development in the sector, as well as increased quality assurance.
NHEA has created a friendly rivalry among various stakeholders in the industry, in terms of medical expertise and this necessitates continuous improvement of our selection criteria.
How do you think government can address the brain drain syndrome that has become one of the biggest threats to the development of the healthcare industry in Nigeria?
The government needs to address fundamental causes of the brain drain, such as substandard/obsolete healthcare infrastructure, poor remuneration, unfavourable working conditions, incessant power outage, poor maintenance and frequent breakdown of medical equipment, poor patient management, and insecurity in the country.
To address the brain drain syndrome, the government can implement policies and incentives that attract and retain healthcare professionals in the country. This can include improving the working conditions and remuneration for healthcare professionals, providing opportunities for career development and advancement, investing in training and education programmes, and creating a supportive and enabling environment for healthcare professionals to practice.
Nigeria can also emulate the concept used by India to bring back their medical professionals who have migrated to other countries. India was able to conquer brain drain because they offered an interest-free loan to all their medical professionals abroad and provided land at almost no cost.
What are your sincere projections for the Nigerian healthcare sector in 2023?
My sincere projections for the Nigerian healthcare sector in 2023 are positive. I believe that, with continued investment and improvement in infrastructure, healthcare delivery will improve significantly. However, there are challenges that need to be addressed, such as funding and shortage of healthcare workers. It will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders in the healthcare sector to achieve these goals.
Any advice for Nigerian doctors?
Nigerian doctors should focus on providing quality medical care to their patients, as well as seeking opportunities for professional development and advancement. They should also advocate for their patients and use their expertise to contribute to the development of the healthcare sector in Nigeria. In addition, collaboration with colleagues and other stakeholders in the healthcare sector is crucial for achieving improvement and growth in the sector.