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FMC Umuahia repositions for medical tourism

By Onyekachi Nwadinma   |   17 September 2015   |   2:45 am  
Abali-Chuku

Abali Chuku

The Federal Ministry of Health in its 2014 Mid-Term Report to access achievements in the health sector listed several medical feats achieved by the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Umuahia since the current Chief Medical Director (CMD) Dr. Abali Chuku assumed duties in May 2011.

Among several achievements is a picture showing brain tumour excision at FMC, Umuahia, Abia State. The Federal Ministry of Health reported that microsurgery of the brain was now being conducted at FMC Umuahia. The Ministry noted with satisfaction the plan by FMC Umuahia to start engaging in open-heart surgeries in collaboration with the Madras Medical Mission of India. The Indian medical firm would provide technical assistance in performing the open-heart surgeries and in due course, transfer the expertise to FMC heart surgeons after attaining proficiency.

Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia (formerly known as Queen Elizabeth Specialist Hospital), Umuahia, is a 327-bed tertiary hospital and one of the leading health care providers in south-eastern Nigeria. The facility is centrally located and readily accessible from Enugu, Imo, Rivers, Ebonyi, Akwa-Ibom and Anambra States.

The hospital clients and patients are drawn from all over the country but predominantly from the south-east and south-south part of the country. The hospital environment is clean and ambient. Although established in 1945 as a mission hospital and then named Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it was in 1991 taken over by the Federal Government and renamed Federal Medical Centre, with the mandate to serve the health needs of Nigerians, especially South East geopolitical zone, particularly Abia State residents where it is situated.

The achievements of the hospital in different fields of medicine, no doubt has repositioned it for medical tourism. The hospital is therefore poised to institutionalize the clinical governance system so that patients receive qualitative health care services.

When tourists travel to another country for medical treatment as well as for sightseeing, the practice is called medical tourism. In the last few years, this trend has increased. This emergent global trend of increased medical tourism is expected to gain momentum in the coming decades as travelers seek destinations abroad that are associated with wellness and affordable medical care. How countries are marketing medical tourism destinations and the choices of consumers in this regard are important aspects for the Nigerian tourism market to consider.

Additionally, the economic impact of medical tourism on countries such as India, where it is virtually a routine practice, and how tourism may be affected by the development of medical pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and medical industry job creation, are aspects worthy of consideration as Nigeria seeks to obtain an important part of the market.

On his appointment as CMD in May 2010, Dr. Chuku, an ophthalmologist, initiated several policy reforms to make the medical centre one of the best in the country in terms of effective service delivery. The former Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu who made two unscheduled visits to the hospital described as amazing the transformation he saw in the hospital under the visionary leadership of Dr. Chuku. President Goodluck Jonathan before he left office approved his reappointment for another four-year tenure because of his impressive performance during his first tenure.

Before Chuku’s first appointment as CMD in 2011, he was for 15 years the head of its Ophthalmology department. Not long after assumption of office and set into motion the process of transforming the 327 – bed hospital into a centre of excellence in terms of effective healthcare, an attempt was made to assassinate him in the hospital premises during which he was shot below the abdomen and at his left arm.

This unfortunate incident did not discourage him; rather it spurred him into action to transform the hospital as a centre of excellence where patients can come for quality and affordable medical care. According to Dr. Chuku “I would say it is a vision I had since 2003 when I became head of clinical services and training.

This is a vision that was further developed during a trip to Israel at the Galilee College where I, and others on the team were taught health system management and strategic planning. It is a vision that was further fine-tuned following an incident in 2011 in which I was shot in an attempted assassination and I spent five months in a British hospital. So, all that had actually helped to fine tune this vision that we have for the Federal Medical Center Umuahia. This is not just Dr. Chuku, or the medical director’s vision but a vision of the entire Federal Medical Center Umuahia and it is a vision to position this hospital as one of the best if not the best federal tertiary hospital in the country”.

The transformation has also touched other areas of the hospital administration, like personnel, patients and customer care. Before Dr. Chuku came on board, the perception of the public about FMC Umuahia was very poor. According to him, “for years back, we came in here to see how we can change this public perception of the hospital. We have been able to build an 88-bed ward.

It is a three star ward with the state -of the art facility. The 88-bed ward has 16 private rooms, and in each private room, we have basically what you will obtain in any decent hospital in Europe. It has bed heads, piped oxygen, piped vacuum and suction. Each room has a three-star facility in-patient facility so that when patients are on admission, they will feel as if they have been admitted into a hotel”.

Dr. Chuku further stated: “There is a saying that if you really want to be the best copy the best and add one percent, then you take over from the best. This is really what has been driving us in the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia. We have identified departments and we have charged them to be the best in those areas. We have here in the Federal Medical Centre what we call SAFE Project. SAFE is an acronym for Seek an Area For Excellence.
“Under SAFE project, we ask consultants and other healthcare providers to identify areas where they can excel. Having identified such areas, we provide training and exposure to enable them provides such level skill in the areas they have identified. We try to use this approach not only to improve on our services but also to provide such services as provided abroad.”

To further deepen its pursuit for excellence, FMC has come up again with a new vision called “CAKO 2016. The FMC UMUAHIA OF OUR DREAMS”, to better define the services the hospital offers and pattern them to standard best practices. According to Dr. Chuku, “We shall start by February, 2016 in the following departments, Anesthesiology, Internal Medicine, Accident and Emergency, and Nursing Services, provide for all staff, comfortable, clean, well furnished, safe working environment with internet access, common secretarial office, tea room and library.

We will also define, implement and sustain a standard acceptable dressing code for each staff in the above departments. We will produce, distribute and encourage the utilization of a standard operating procedure for the 10 commonest emergencies and electives in these departments alongside standard operating procedures to address admission, care, discharge, and follow up within adopted aspects of the Joint Commission International Accreditation (JCI A) standards for hospitals.”

In spirited effort to reposition the hospital as it veers into medical tourism, the management has brought in what they call AIDET, which is actually the protocol that is operated in the United States (U.S.)

This protocol which has been used by the Star Buck Chain in the United States from where it is borrowed stands for Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explain and Thank (AIDET). As Dr. Chuku explained, AIDET is an acronym for these stages of customer care areas. The entire 1600-member of staff of FMC, Umuahia are being trained so as to comply with the AIDET Protocol.

In fact at FMC, Umuahia, it is mandatory for newly employed staff to undergo training on AIDET Protocol before the recruitment processes is finalized. The objective is to make staff, patient friendly and customer oriented so as to change the perception of patients positively so that they can regard hospitals as a hospitality industry.

Dr. Chuku believes that the hospital is prepared to cater for Nigerians and foreigners like who may wish to patronize the hospital instead of going abroad for medical treatment.

In his words, “Well, we are not saying that we have arrived. What we are saying is that the level of care in FMC Umuahia as of date, is far better than the level of care in 2010. There are quite a few things we are doing now which we were not doing then. I can tell you that the care of diabetics in FMC Umuahia is one of the best in the country. I can also tell you that the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) of FMC Umuahia is one of the best in the country. “The West African College of Surgeons and the Ohio Medical College testified that we have one of the best. In a recent accreditation exercise here in FMC for the Department of Pediatrics we scored 4.3 over 5 and 4.3 over 5 is really very high. In Family Medicine we have also done very well.

We have been accorded one of the highest ratings in our Family Medicine Department. We have one of the best-equipped endocrinology and metabolic team in this country. We also believe in team care. We believe that no patient should be left at the mercy of a single consultant, so we operate in teams.”

The West African College of Surgeons and the Ohio Medical College testified that we have one of the best. In a recent accreditation exercise here in FMC for the Department of Pediatrics we scored 4.3 over 5 and 4.3 over 5 is really very high. In Family Medicine we have also done very well. We have been accorded one of the highest ratings in our Family Medicine Department. We have one of the best-equipped endocrinology and metabolic team in this country. We also believe in team care. We believe that no patient should be left at the mercy of a single consultant, so we operate in teams.

The Federal Medical Centre Umuahia has a total of 1,600 staff 358 of which are doctors. Of the total doctors, 76 are consultants, specialist in over 15 disciplines. Their medical training involves six years of medical college, a year of internship, a year of national service, and about six years of residency training. The residency program is carried out mostly within the Government teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centres. Therefore, if the government hospitals were poorly equipped, then, training based in these institutions would of course be deficient.

The professional competence of Dr. Chuku was on April 18, 2015 recognised when the Board of Trustees at The University of Toledo in Ohio United States (U.S.) inducted him into the 2015 Medical Mission Hall of Fame (MMHOF). The Hall of Fame Foundation was founded in year 2004 by Dr. Lawrence V. Conway, a University of Toledo professor emeritus of Finance, “to honour, through an annual public awards ceremony, those individuals and or organizations that have made significant and substantial contributions to advancing the quality of life of their brothers and sisters through out the world”. About 47 persons and a corporate group, ‘far been inducted. Out of the 47, Dr. Chuku of Nigeria is the first and only African.

• Dr. Nwadinma is a medical practitioner in Aba, Abia State.



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