Dr. Abiodun Falade of Abiodun Falade Hospital/Foundation started practising medicine in 2010 having studied medicine at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. In this interview, the fertility expert-cum philanthropist speaks about his experiences with women with fibroid and other health issues, while advising that the Federal Government should urgently halt brain drain amongst Nigerian doctors and nurses by overhauling the health sector. He speaks with Oladipupo Awo jobi in his hospital situated in Ajah, Lekki area of Lagos State. Excerpts…
Why did you decide to go into medicine as a profession?
My father is a gynaecologist, and I grew up in Ibadan, Oyo State. My father is more like a role model to me, our street was a local one in Ibadan. So, my father was the only doctor there then, and people were always coming to our house for treatment and I saw him more like a superman that was helping people and I wanted to be something like that. So, growing up and looking at him influenced me.
How challenging has the job been, especially as you treat a lot of people that have fibroid and you also do IVF almost free of charge for the indigents?
I didn’t just get here, and I want to say that to be a doctor in Nigeria is not easy. Many of those that graduated with me from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, Osun State have left for abroad. Almost 95% of my set is out of the country for greener pastures.
But, why are you still here?
May be because I have a purpose here and it’s not my intention to leave Nigeria. I have offers for me to travel out, especially to Canada, but what I am doing is a calling, it’s like a ministry. You are touching a lot of lives, and I can’t leave this because of money, it’s not that I’m a pauper anyway and there is no reason for me to leave all because of money. If I’m leaving it will be because of money. It’s still our country, no matter how good a place is, it can never be like your country.
What are they doing there that we are not doing here?
Things are working there. Here, I use generating set a lot and I know how much I spend on security. We are not secured, for instance, if they call me for emergency, I have to be careful because I’m afraid of security. Also, raising your child here is another problem. You can see what our youths are doing now, some of them have become internet fraudsters (Yahoo Yahoo boys). Also, there is no money, how much are doctors being paid in government hospitals? What they pay over there is like times 10 of what our government is paying here. Moreover, doctors are not being appreciated here. In the United Kingdom, for instance, once you say you are a doctor, they give you preferential treatments, they make you feel special. One day, as I was driving, a policeman stopped me and I told him that I was a doctor and that I had an emergency, he said; “and so, my friend, park.” I said I was a doctor and I had an emergency and you are still stopping me, if it were to be in the UK, they will just clear road for me. Things are not working and you don’t blame those doctors for leaving.
You call the hospital Abiodun Falade Hospital and there is Abiodun Falade Foundation, what is the difference between the two?
One is a hospital that I’m operating as a business, and job and one is a foundation that is strictly for helping people.
How do you do that and why did you establish the foundation?
I used to do free healthcare, when I was in Ibadan. I have been practising as a doctor since 2010, this is my 12th year as a doctor. We were bearing a different name before we changed it to Abiodun Falade Hospital. Then, there was this lady that came for treatment and she was so pained and I discovered that she had fibroid, but she said she didn’t have money. I felt so bad, though we had to refer her to the University College Hospital (UCH). I felt that somebody, who didn’t have money to be treated in a private hospital, how will she cope with the financial demands in UCH. I felt so bad and since that day I decided to see what I could do to help. I have had experiences in some areas, especially fibroid, I have dealt with it a number of times. I just felt that I needed to help people. Funny enough, I was not even thinking of fibroid. The major thing in Ibadan then was that, when some women wanted to give birth they go to local birth attendants (Baba Olomo wewe) or church clinics and maternity centres and some of them are harmed in the process. By the time they get to my hospital, things would have been bad. So people were not really going to where they should go, but treating fibroid was the last thing on my mind. When I started, I was thinking of helping women out in antenatal and giving them help in that area. I set up a foundation to help people with antenatal care and make it affordable to them. It was so affordable that we were collecting less than N5,000 from them. I was collecting like N10,000 for delivery and N40,000 for caesarian operation. It was so cheap so that anybody could afford it. So later, I added fibroid surgery and added treatment of children. Despite all these, they still felt that it was a lie, and that it sounded too good for a hospital like ours to give them free antenatal care and that something was still missing. They were still going to local birth attendants and church clinics. People started coming with fibroid cases from Ogbomosho, Ibadan, even from the UK, Lagos, and Cotonou to treat the ailment. As I was doing this, it was on the social media and somebody will tell another person and from there it began to spread. We started from Ibadan, and last year alone I did about 250 fibroid surgeries. I did them at subsidised rates because if you want to do it in Lagos, in Lekki here, just go and get N1.5million. How many people have that kind of money and it affects everybody, both the rich and poor. Even in Ibadan, we make it so affordable, we do it completely free for some people. There are some people we do it for at around N80,000, or N100,000 and now with the present economy, it goes for about N100,000 to N200,000. It is still relatively cheap.
How can fibroid be prevented?
When women are growing and they are not pregnant, it could be a problem. Women are designed to start having children before the age of 30, let’s say 24 to 26, that’s the peak of your fertility as a woman. If a woman is fertile and she does not get pregnant, by the time she reaches the age of 30, fibroid will start growing. I’m not saying it’s a rule because we have seen a lady of 40 that just got married and they don’t have fibroid and we have seen a lady of 16 or 22 years with a very big fibroid. But those are just exceptions. But 90% of my patients are 30 years and above and they would not be able to conceive. It’s very common now. Why is it more common, our women don’t marry early again. In the past, women used to marry at age 21 or 22, but now women also want to have careers. They no longer depend on men, they also want to have their own money. Now, they want to be on their own and they marry close to the age of 30 or when they are in their 30s. Also, in the days of our mothers, they ate ‘efo’ (vegetables), now many women eat that now rather they would eat poundo yam or junks such as ice cream, sharwama, meat pie, canned food, hot dog and what have you.
How do you think the government can assist the health sector?
One of the biggest challenges in the Nigerian health sector is that there is scarcity of doctors. This is because health workers are not paid well or treated well in Nigeria. If the government builds more hospitals, who will stay there, even our nurses are leaving for abroad in numbers and with the rate we are going we might not find any more doctors in Nigeria in the next five or six years. It has got to a stage that even medical students are planning to leave Nigeria for greener pastures. They say they don’t need National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme since they don’t plan to stay in Nigeria after schooling. Their services are needed abroad. Government must restrategise to revamp the nation’s health sector because everything is wrong in the sector. We need a complete overhauling of the sector with people that have the interest of the country at heart, who are on the field. Nigerian doctors are leaving for abroad because deep down in them they are not happy. They would have preferred to make money on their fatherland.
Is there anything the private sector can do to help the profession?
I’m trying my best, I pay my doctors and nurses well. I have two doctors, the salary I pay is more than what they pay senior registrar in the university. Apart from that, if they do any procedure, I give them 10% of whatever they do. If they do CS, or any other operation, I give them 10% of the money I collect. Also, I feed them three times a day, I gave them houses, which is what the government should be doing. I treat my nurses well, I pay them more than anybody. I might not be able to employ many of them, but I do the little I can. If every private hospital does that the problems would be less. But most hospital owners also want to make more money.
You also do IVF, some people think it is done overseas?
Many hospitals are doing IVF in Nigeria now. People are doing it and getting results, but many people cannot afford it. It is still beyond a lot of people. Many women remove fibroid because they want children and many of them still need IVF after removing the fibroid. We might discover that what is there showed that the woman can still not conceive unless she does IVF. But this might be somebody that was begging before she did fibroid operation, and it could be very expensive. It goes for about N1.6 to N1.8million. Where will they get that kind of money? If some men can get that kind of money they would rather go and marry another wife. At the end of the day, I feel like am I really helping, and I have tried to partner with many of these IVF centres, but nobody is willing to bring down their prices.