In healthcare, the term ‘innovation’ has been reserved for the development of new therapies, drugs or medical devices. Following private and public efforts to reform the healthcare system, it is obvious that innovation must be explored in a broader context, one that examines previously underdeveloped opportunities in areas such as data analytics, consumer behaviour, provider incentives and process improvement.
This is in tandem with the objectives of the National Health Policy which is aimed at strengthening the national health system and enables the provision of effective, efficient quality, accessible and affordable health services that will improve the health status of Nigerians through the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.
The Minister for Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, since his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari, has stressed at different interactive fora with healthcare providers the need to carry out a holistic health care reform to address the issue of a weak system. The minister believes that this will address disharmony among health workers, inadequate physical infrastructure, materials and technology, as well as lack of adequate regulation.
In line with this understanding, the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Umuahia, Abia State (formerly known as Queen Elizabeth Specialist Hospital) is in the forefront of carrying out innovations in health services in line with the policy direction of the federal government. Its Medical Director, Dr. Abali Chuku, has turned the facility into a centre of excellence and a reference point in healthcare services. Chuku’s vision is to create a better institution and judicious utilisation of available public resources.
The management under Dr. Chuku has initiated several reforms that has made the medical centre one of the best in the country in terms of effective service delivery and this has changed the public perception of the hospital. The transformation also touched other areas of the hospital’s administration such as personnel, patients and customer care. The changes cut across other areas.
The management procured and installed a Computed Tomography, CT, scan machine manufactured by General Electric and a mammography machine. The hospital never had a CT scan until Chuku came on board.
With these machines and advanced diagnostic laboratory, FMC Umuahia has become one of the best healthcare delivery destinations in the South-East geo-political zone, as it is the only hospital that has a functional CT scan in the zone. Its CT scan is not on Public–Private Partnership, PPP, it is wholly-owed and operated by the hospital. Other health institutions in the zone that have CT scans are not under the operation of the federal government, but with PPP arrangement.
In order to improve services in the hospital, the management used or borrowed some of the trends on social media platforms like a Wireless Application Service Provider, WASP, to provide preliminary results to consultants.
For example, if x-xay or CT scan is taken, the result is transmitted to the doctors so that they can have preliminary plans. This has contributed to effective service delivery.
Another innovation apart from the CT scan is a functional In-Vitro Fertilisation, IVF, centre. It is on record that the hospital’s IVF laboratory is not only purpose-built, but it is also one of the best in the country. FMC Umuahia is adjudged as one of the neatest health institutions in the country. In fact, the IVF centre is the neatest unit and this gives one the feeling that such facility is in a foreign country. It has to be neat because the result depends on the environment.
FMC Umuahia’s results are higher than those of other health institutions. In most cases it is 30 percent, but the hospital’s case is a little higher than this figure and has facilitated positive pregnancy tests. The dialysis centre with four new functional machines has increased the number to six. Out of the two machines, one will be dedicated to HIV positive patients and the other for hypertensive patients.
FMC Umuahia is a 88-bed facility with 16-bed private ward which has been commissioned and is fully functional. The management copied the National Hospital Abuja and added one percent to it. The National Hospital has 12 private wards but FMC Umuahia has 16. The hospital has piped oxygen and suction machines in all the rooms, multi -(6)-parameter monitors that include ECG and networked to a central work station in all the rooms. The rooms are en-suite and made comfortable to give a three-star appeal at half the cost of the National Hospital’s charge, with guaranteed individual care. There are three categories: private rooms, six-bed mini wards and the 16-bed open wards; other support spaces for nurses, doctors, laboratory and pharmacy. Services have commenced in the facility.
Training and retraining of medical personnel has been given topmost priority under Seek an Area for Excellence, SAFE, Project. The SAFE project is a local initiative whereby consultants are encouraged to identify their area of competence and are provided with training opportunities to excel.
Over 27 persons comprising doctors, nurses and other personnel have been trained under the programme. The e-hospital project has gone far. There has been a lot of improvement in the computerisation of medical records. The NHIS computerisation/e-hospital is now running and our focus is to reduce the waiting time to 20 minutes for outpatients and one minute for emergencies.
The hospital’s residency training is reported to be one of the best in the country. Its pass rate is very high. Performance is also impressive in internal medicine, community medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, radiography, family medicine, pediatrics and anesthesiology. However, it is still having challenges in funding residency training. The hospital uses its internally generated revenue to train personnel. FMC Umuahia also has the challenge of sub-specialisation in pediatrics and internal medicine and our focus is to sub-specialise in pediatrics so as to get accredited for part II.
According to Chuku, “My vision for the hospital in 2016 is to devote effort on improving the quality of our services, improve patient-doctor relationship and give more attention to patients’ right to information. I want to encourage staff to give information to patients.
“I will also improve on the working environment and make it more conducive and the aesthetics of our hospital which I believe will boost its mission: to provide specialised and comprehensive healthcare using modem equipment, research and training through a highly motivated work force operating in a conducive environment to capture our antecedent as a mission hospital.”
In a spirited effort to reposition the hospital as it veers into medical tourism and also improve on its customer care services, the management has brought in what they call AIDET, which is actually the protocol that is operated in the United States of America. This protocol which has been used by the Star Buck Chain in the United States from where it was borrowed stands for Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explain and Thank, AIDET.
AIDET is an acronym for these stages of customer care areas. The entire 1,600-member of staff of the FMC Umuahia are being trained to comply with this protocol. In fact, at the hospital, it is mandatory for newly employed staff to undergo training on AIDET protocol before the recruitment processes is finalised. The objective is to make them patient friendly and customer oriented so as to change the perception of patients positively.


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