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NISA Premier: Consolidating new model in revitalising healthcare delivery, 25 years on

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Chief Executive Officer/ Founder, Nisa Premier Hospital, Abuja, Dr. Ibrahim Wada (left); Director of Administration, Mrs. Rabi Wada; Clinical Director, Dr. Timi Ashaolu; Medical Director, Dr. Solomon Nenfa and Head of Department, Quality Improvement, Dr. Victor Ede, at the presentation of  ISO 9001-2015 Certification to the hospital. <br />

Medical tourism is still a hard sell in Nigeria. In the last few years, many Nigerians have travelled out of the country for one medical care or the other, with India, Israel, U.S. and Saudi Arabia as destination. However, since its establishment in 1996, Nisa Premier Hospital, Abuja, has proved to be a centre of excellence for fertility treatment.

Not only is the facility a first class health centre, it has continued to provide globally acceptable services to its patients, including its international partners working in Nigeria.

The Guardian gathered that Nisa was the first of its kind to pioneer the first government authenticated InVitroFertilisation (IVF) in 1998 with the birth of baby Hannatu and has since then delivered over 1,000 test tube babies using the IVF technique. 

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Although refocused to become one of the most prestigious private general practice hospitals in Nigeria, NISA is reputed for record-breaking expertise in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, as well as paediatrics. Today, the hospital has grown at its headquarters in Jabi from the seed eight-bed facility it began with to about 75 beds in high profile location in the nation’s capital.

It is not a surprise that among other hospitals of high repute, it emerged the winner of the bid to concession the ailing Garki Hospital. The hospital won the proposal after a keenly competitive bid to manage the government-owned hospital, which was shut down for six years at that time for renovation to become the first in Public Private Partnership model in the health sector in Nigeria.

Really, NISA began operation as a general hospital in 2007 and in the last 14 years, it has set pace in creating access to affordable services while offering quality services at shortened consulting period, which is made possible with deployment of cutting edge ICT technologies in its processes. 

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Speaking with The Guardian, founder, Dr. Ibrahim Wada, said the idea of setting up a private hospital was out of a necessity in a sense that by 1996, when the hospital started, there were no stable facilities for helping families that were suffering from infertility at the level of invitro-fertilisation. He added that as a returnee from Cambridge, he tried to establish a public sector idea for over 18 months and made no progress, which forced him to reluctantly decide to split his time between the public sector to start NISA.

“I remember my friend who said that he’s an accidental public servant-that is Governor el-Rufai. I laughed because I could also then be called an accidental private practitioner because I never really planned. I want to help the public, establish fertility center for them and decide on my fate whether to go back to Europe or not but then, I couldn’t push it in the public sector because of delays, bureaucracies and different kinds of things that everybody knows so I had no choice than to start NISA.”

Wada said the vision of the hospital was to establish a center within the country that will wipe tears from the eyes of those people looking for babies to complete their families.

“Then we realised there were other gaps, for example, somebody who has succeeded by IVF has twins and then, you go to a public hospital and say they’ve taken light, the babies die some crazy things like that and so, we have no choice again to say, we better start ante-natal service ourselves, and provide the technologies that will make the baby survive.

“Neo-natal services of NISA, I am so proud of them because we’ve established the basics that make the chances of new born babies surviving in our hands at NISA Premier is literally the same as expected in London. So, again just as the fertility services have been achieved, and I am proud of the fact that we even spread it. We’ve taught a lot of people how to do it in different parts of the country, we have incubated neo-natal services now and the next level now is to try and propagate what we’ve achieved to affect the rest of the country.

“So when you look at fertility services, neo-natal services, maternity services, even family healthcare services, we are satisfied that the vision in the mission is being achieved.”

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He lamented that Nigeria being the most populous country and number one economy of Africa, yet, people are still moving out of the country to seek medical attention. “So, it’s important that that motto is driving me at least not for the entire spectrum of medical care but for the ones that I can help. So, I am satisfied and with the help of God, the goals we set, the vision, a lot have been achieved and a lot more is achievable if the current trend continues with the help of God.

“There are many things that I should have done differently. I could have seen medicine as a business from the day that I wanted to go into private practice and set up the structures, but the heart I had was that of a doctor and that overcame every other business considerations. I do realise now though that if we are to go to the needs in healthcare, we are going to need the resources, it’s still redeemable. Don’t get me wrong, this is the economical aspect, the business aspect that I think should have been equal to the heart and mind of the doctor.”

He said going forward, the motto, ‘Nigeria can, Africa can’ will ensure that the principles of good healthcare, good business sense will work together to make Nigeria a health destination for all.

“Second, to make NISA Premier an example that other practitioners and the private sector can even look up to. Here, we have a large population of those that can’t afford and also a large population of those that can. These two must work together as we cannot separate them.”

The Medical Director of Garki Hospital, Dr. Adamu Onu, said the vision of the partnership is to offer world class health care, noting that shortfalls in the Nigerian healthcare would be significantly resolved if government at all levels could embrace the Public-Private Partnership model in funding and managing the health sector. 

“The truth of the matter is that this hospital is fully digitised. You come in here without files being pushed up and down.

You are not going to have the story of ‘Oh sorry, we’ve misplaced your file, we can’t find it. That is not a question that arises here, the in-patient, the outpatient, the labs, the pharmacy, everywhere is fully computerised.

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“So right from the Consulting Room, the doctor can see the patient’s lab result. So, if a patient comes in here and has lab test done unlike in other places where you have to go and queue up in the lab to collect your result before you go and see the doctor and you see that is an example of what I call indirect cost, they say time is money and then you spend like 30 minutes to pick up your test result, maybe you spend another 30 minutes before you see the doctor; that is completely eliminated here,” Onu said.

In October 2019, the hospital became the first in sub-Sahara Africa to carry out Sleeve Gastrostomy, a surgical weight-loss procedure performed by inserting small instruments through multiple small incisions in the upper abdomen.

In order to guarantee that its manpower frequently update skills, the hospital has continued to invest in the capacity and development of its staff through training.

The hospital is also renowned for creating opportunity for consultants from other hospitals to be trained from the West African College of Surgeons. A World Bank report reported by Healthy Partnerships in 2010 declared the Garki Hospital as a PPP model of a private sector administering government structure and where patients get higher-quality services than at public hospitals at cheaper rates than private medical centres.

Without mincing words, the PPP initiative involving NISA Premier and the FCT Administration is a success as it has proven to be innovative in addressing the service deficits and providing solution at melting point between the people and government in the urge for government to speedily revitalize the scanty health facilities encumbered by limited resources.

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