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Medical mission: A call for corporate philanthropy

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PHOTO: transequality.org

PHOTO: transequality.org

The Doctors on Air Medical Mission, a one-day annual health initiative through which residents of rural communities of Lagos are given free comprehensive medical attention covering consultation, testing and treatment of various disease conditions, held on August 6, 2016. It was organised by Doctors on Air, an informative health programme on radio, PathCare Laboratories and Megaletrics, owners of the radio stations – Classic, Naija and Beat FMs. Doctors on Air is a corporate social responsibility initiative of PathCare Laboratories. This year’s event, held in the Alimosho Local Council Development Area (LCDA) gave me new insights on how corporate bodies and government institutions could improve the lots of the common man through partnerships.

The concept of corporate social responsibility, a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model that allows a business monitor and ensure its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards and national or international norms, has been used to depict a whole lot of things, some of them very mundane. Analysts have tried to clarify this concept by breaking it down into three main subheads – corporate governance, corporate social investment and corporate philanthropy.

Corporate governance is the system of rules, practices and processes by which a company balances the interests of a company’s many stakeholders, such as shareholders, management, customers, suppliers, financiers, government and the community.Corporate social investment is those activities that corporate bodies engage in that are expected to bring returns to the company. Corporate philanthropy is a free of charge contribution which the company does only for the greater good of the society.The focus of corporate philanthropy is not to add to the company’s bottom line, but just to improve the lots of the people.

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Going by the above, I see the Doctors on Air Medical Mission as a clear case of corporate philanthropy. This is because the event was organised by mostly an elitist corps of corporate bodies and delivered to the rural dwellers, who, on a fair day, cannot even afford the services of these companies.The event was not a marketing tool for any of the companies. The people who came from the area received quality medical attention from some of the best health centres in Lagos.

Prior to the event, I never realised how the not-so-rich people value their health. We often hear of how many from this social class die of cases that could easily be treated just because they did not seek quality medical attention. As early as 7 a.m. more than 130 people had been registered. I then realised that what kills our poor rural dwellers is not lack of appreciation of quality health delivery but just the lack of funds to access appropriate medical attention.

To get a card to see a general practitioner in a hospital costs about N3,000 and if you need to see a specialist you would be required to pay an additional N10,000. Then the test and the drugs. On the lower average you spend about N20,000 for a treatment of this quality. For the rich, this may be just any out of pocket figure but to most of the rural poor, this may mean more than a family’s monthly income. For them, DOA Medical Mission just gave them at least their monthly income in medical services. The event, which ended in the evening treated more than 2000 patients in one day, in one local council. One could only imagine what would happen if this initiative runs across the 57 local council development areas of Lagos State perhaps, the health status of the state would have gone up a notch.

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One of my biggest lessons of the event is the need for synergy between the corporate Nigeria and government at all levels. This kind of collaboration brings together the private sector’s detailed approach and the public sector’s reach for the improvement of the lots Nigerians. This outcome would elude or cost both sectors more if they were to act separately.

It was possible for the organisers and their over 25 like-minded partners to pull together their resources – personnel, equipment, drugs, test kits etc.- and deploy such for the common interest of improving the lots of the rural dwellersat the event. On the side of government, the Alimosho LCDA did a great job in mobilising the people of the area to come out for the programme. It also provided the venue and other logistics – power, water, security and crowd control – that ensured that the event was hitch-free.

Although the event has come and gone, the benefits will linger much longer, not just for those who came and received the quality care that was, but for that day, an exclusive treatment for the rich. I am sure that the officers of the local council would look back at the success of the event and have self-congratulatory smiles on their faces. Lastly, it is a call on other well-meaning corporate bodies to set out some of their resources, not as an investment, but for the good of the society, especially those who cannot afford their services.
Udom is corporate communications manager with Salveo Healthcare, Lagos.


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