Seven months after it commenced operations, one of Nigeria’s most equipped private healthcare providers, Evercare, is riding on the back of investment in quality service delivery to gain popularity among its increasing number of patients, Ayo Shonibare, the chief medical officer confirmed to BusinessDay.
The hospital sitting in the centre of Lagos highbrow Lekki is seeing a rise in demand for cutting-edge service from a mix of cash-paying and insured Nigerians, who might have otherwise taken their needs abroad,
According to Shonibare, some of the 30,000 Nigerian patients who fly out annually for ‘world-class’ health services such as advanced cancer care and transplant surgery for various organs have been searching inwards for local substitutes.
While the impact of forex shortage on the high cost of getting medical care abroad has made Evercare the go-to place, on the one hand, restrictions due to COVID-19 have also been supportive.
Travel restrictions in top destinations of medical trips from Nigeria have made travelling a tasking exercise.
After India was rocked by a dangerous variant that forced a surge in COVID-19 infections and death, travel restrictions were introduced, limiting regular health visits, Tayo Ojuri, managing partner at Aglow Aviation Support Services Limited explained, noting it has been the same for the United Arab Emirates and Europe.
Some of these restrictions meant that even if a Nigerian patient was fully vaccinated here, testing and staying in quarantine was still necessary, deterring very sick people who cannot afford to isolate for weeks before seeing a doctor.
Shonibare says the hospital is aware of these needs and working to retain the confidence it has gained within its short while of existing in Nigeria.
With more than half of its bed capacity occupied, one of the things working for the hospital is how it has managed to pool multi-specialties and numerous health services under a roof.
It’s still uncommon in Nigeria’s private medical practice for a facility to host nearly 40 subspecialists, all working full-time to deliver patient-centric care. And at their call are tools, including full imaging machines, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, mammography, dialysis, chemotherapy, physiotherapy and rehabilitation and laboratory.
“Patients require round-the-clock attention to ensure that they get the best clinical outcomes. So we are doing a lot in continuous training and education, changing people’s mindset about patient-centric care,” Shonibare said
“What we have also done is our pricing is discounted compared to our competitors. We want to improve access to as many people as possible. We are also putting processes in place to ensure that people follow guidelines to get the best for the patient”
Managed by TPG Capital, the Evercare Hospital is owned by Evercare Health Fund, comprised of some leading development finance institutions and other impact investors.
It is a part of the Evercare Group which operates across Africa and Asia, with a portfolio of 29 hospitals, 16 clinics, and more than 75 diagnostic centres.
The 165-bed multi-specialty private hospital touts itself as an institution resourced to function in a broad range of specialties from interventional cardiology to neonatal intensive care.
It’s equipped with a 22-bed intensive care unit, possibly the largest in the nation, and 4 negative pressure Isolation Rooms, as well as a Spect CT scan.
This is a time when investors in local healthcare are clamouring for import duty waivers for medical equipment.
Setting up specialist practices in Nigeria often requires importing diagnostic equipment that gulps high costs worsened by the volatile foreign exchange rate and import duty level.
Industry analysts say these are signs that Nigeria’s ambition to cut a substantial part of the luxurious bill on medical tourism annually is realistic, although more effort has to go into widening access.
Femi Olugbile, former health commissioner in Lagos says the government needs to design practical ways to multiply the number of Nigerians under the national health insurance scheme to expand access to care.
According to Olugbile, leaving less than 10 percent of the entire population covered is a major challenge that can eventually affect the thriving of private healthcare investments such as Evercare.
“It is a journey, not an event. It will just make people work harder to remove the access barrier so that all the people who actually need care can access it irrespective of the size of their pocket. And there will be more Evercares that can be run sustainably in different parts of the country,” Olugbile said.