Proprietor of Bell Dome Consult hospital, arguably the best hospital in Adamawa State today, Dr. Abdullahi Belel said the need to provide the best medical services comparable anywhere in the world is what prodded him to build Bell Dome Consult Hospital in the state capital.
In this interview with Mohammed Ismail, Belel took us back history lane on when he conceived the idea of building the hospital, how he nurtured it to fruition and the challenges of building a modern health facility. Excerpts;
What informed your decision to build this magnificent and state of the art hospital in Yola?
Dr Belel: Although this hospital is new, the concept is not a new one, as it took us almost ten years to arrive where we are today. It was arrived at after we carefully studied the health system in Adamawa State and we noticed that the gaps within the system cannot be closed in a short while, so it will take a long time and government alone cannot do that. It requires the private sector to come in that is why we are coming from the private sector to boost the coverage of healthcare services and improve access.
One of the major challenges to accessing healthcare services is poverty. If the cost of care is high and is on the rise, if indigenous professionals do not venture into healthcare provision, the citizens will hardly get modern health care services. So this prompted us to invest in establishing this facility and get it to function in a way that all the basic units will provide high quality services.
We know it is very expensive but we want to contain the cost. The challenge of containing the cost is very huge and it will take us enormous task to overcome, therefore, we have to generate data from the two sides, the supply side, that is us providing the services and the demand side, that is the people who are accessing the services. If you look at our environment, it doesn’t look like the ordinary hospital, so most of the people are scared, thinking that our cost will be above the roof, so we want to expose people to what we have and understand that our cost are comparatively low. We are not even comparing with any hospital but we are out here to beat down the cost and give the people the highest quality that is possible.
The map of the health calendar cannot be complete without the physicians’ week. Has your hospital keyed into the week for the betterment of the society?
Dr. Belel: The physicians’ week is a responsibility that every physician, every doctor is supposed to own up and the leadership of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), did what they can by mobilizing all the doctors in the state to participate in different activities that will help to promote our values as doctors.
And as a new hospital, we also have to respect our leaders no matter how young they are. They are vibrant young doctors that are now our leaders and therefore, the physicians’ week became a very good platform to do this experiment and invest in the data collection and analysis to understand where we are and where we can now advise our clients and how to access healthcare services.
This activity has attracted not only the patients but many health professionals because we have gotten a lot of volunteers that are coming to share their own experiences with us and also give us the criticisms that can help us improve. So I think these two days have been worthwhile and the exercise has been fulfilling, the turn out has been very encouraging. We didn’t make it like a ceremony because we want people to access normal services but we have open up more doors to reduce congestion because when you say something is free, the traffic will also be high. So we are happy that the first day we started, that is on the 21st, we have gotten over 200 people that we screened at the laboratory and there are many more that did not require laboratory services and today, I think that number should double by the end of the day because at midday, we have more than 300 already.
Therefore, we hope at the end of the day, it will be substantial despite the fact that this is a new place, a lot of people don’t know where it is, we don’t even have sign posts until yesterday.
As a renowned philanthropist many may think the hospital is non profit what is your take?
Dr. Belel: I’m not operating the hospital because I’m a philanthropist, I’m operating it because I’m a health professional. I’m a medical doctor and as a provider, as a manger in the healthcare sector, I know that there are a lot of problems that government alone cannot handle, so this hospital will provide us the opportunity to understand more of these problems and bring them to the table for discussion and engage the right people and the right organizations for these discussions and mainly to improve the quality of care and to reduce the cost.
So I build this hospital purely because of professionalism and my background.
Even in health sector, I’m a public health specialist and therefore, this is my domain to ensure the system works. So if I can use this facility as a fulcrum then I think we have the right place.
What kind of services have you provided free to the people during the physicians’ week?
Basically the services we provided are what we call the outpatient services where all consultations are opened from the medical, surgical, obstetrics, gyanacology and pediatrics. So after the consultations, we give advice to thise with challenges on what they are supposed to do. As part of the screening, we have free test for diabetes. We also have the test for Hepatitis B, because Hepatitis, is also spreading in our communities and the government is not providing free test for it. As it is, we have free test for HIV but we don’t have free test for Hepatitis, therefore, we are also complimenting by providing the test. We also give free test for malaria, although there are organizations that have quite subsidize the tests like UNICEF, but malaria test is relatively expensive and very common. So during this screening, anybody that presented with fever, is given free test for malaria.
Going by the tests you have conducted what are the major health challenges bedevilling the people?
Basically, the medical challenges are numerous, a lot people come with different kinds of cases of fever but the malaria presentations were the highest in terms of the number, there are also presentations like typhoid fever, we have those with respiratory track infections both upper and lower respiratory track infections. Generally, from assessments, the common ailments that we see are the normal issues we expected, we have not seen things that are outside the normal issues that our public will have. Unfortunately, most of these things can be prevented. So we don’t need to spend money in the hospital but people need more information more advise and adhere to medical advice in order to reduce expenditure on health, instead of on themselves and improving the economy. So after we are through with the exercise, we will finalise our analysis for the week and we can now associate this information with the relevant agencies particularly ministry of health and give advise to the government on how to go about improving the well being of the citizens.
Can you give us some insight into the operations of the hospital?
Dr Belel: The hospital is currently operating 24 hours, 7 days a week, and we have full time and part time doctors. We also have full time and part time nurses. All of them are running shifts and we have those that are on call, they are covering all the units, 24 hours, 7 days a week. We also have the laboratory staff that are running their shifts 24 hours. We also have the medical record, the security, cleaners and our drivers. So it is a full pledged hospital and all the services are available. We also have two theatres and a maternity suite that is the most modern in the state, I beat my chest on that. We design our hospital by ourselves, it has everything in one piece, if there are emergencies, we can handle emergencies faster and better than any hospital in Adamawa State.
And the bed capacity of the hospital is around 75. It is a bit huge and since we have four departments we have to divide these beds into the four departments. For the departments, the beds are small if you say 75 or 80 divide by four, you are just talking of 20 beds and they want separate beds for males and females. So to them the bed space is small, but to us its still big because running the hospital is expensive.
But we are very confident that many of the fronts that take up the money do not readily factor in. So cost of operation is coming down. Since we came here, we hardly use our generator, we have noticed that DISCO has improved and the cost of electricity although they are talking about the rise in the cost but for us in the commercial side, we know the DISCO is doing well and has saved us from huge cost of running generator. The others are the state taxes, and the taxes are low. We are happy the government is supporting businesses to flourish, we want to encourage that the governor should find other ways of improving his revenue not to be taxing those that are having businesses.
What assurance will you give to the people of getting value for their money?
I want to assure the people that this hospital is for them, it is not for us as health professionals but it is basically for the people and we know that over 80 percent of our population are living below the poverty line . The government is working hard to establish the social health insurance scheme. We will encourage the people to enroll and be part of this social insurance because a stitch in time saves nine. There are a lot of encouragement from the federal government too. The basic healthcare provision fund has been signed and they have started disbursement. But must states including Adamawa state are not part of the social insurance.
With the social insurance scheme, every resident can go to any hospital and facilitate healthcare. On our own part, we will do whatever it takes to be part of the insurance scheme. We will also write the social insurance for accreditation. We will work with the state government to align with the insurance packages and improve access while not compromising the quality of our services.