Metropole Magazine

 
 
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06 Jan

Located in the heart of Maitama, Dr. Hassan’s Clinic and Diagnostic Centre is probably the city’s best-kept medical secret. The 65-bed clinic provides comprehensive care that extends from general medicine to specialized services and cutting-edge procedures. The hospital draws patients across classes and from far and near.

The compound housing the clinic is a series of white buildings with red-rimmed mirrored windows surrounded by a high wall topped with barbed wire. Iit gives off an atmosphere of clean, down-to-earth simplicity. A Muslim prayer area just to the right of the entrance, topped by an unadorned peaked zinc roof and a restaurant and a snack shop at the other end of the compound are among the few concessions to anything non-medical—and they seem to stand out in contrast. Even the attempts at light touches of luxury—such as the fountain attached to the front entrance and the reflecting pool in the small garden at the back—seem forced.

Inside, the decor is also clean, well-kept and simple. Unlike many private clinics that attempt to dazzle patients with expensive furnishings, there is a sense here that all are welcome. Indeed, the clinic’s prices are comparatively low. In addition, all costs are clearly stated up front—unlike the situation in many other hospitals and clinics where pricing can sometimes come as a surprise to patients.

The comprehensive yet affordable care provided by the clinic is part of a deliberate effort on the part of owner Dr. Shabihul Hassan, after whom the clinic is named. Dr. Hassan is a slight, balding man with a neat moustache and precise manner. Asthe interview with him reveals, the clinic is a culmination of a lifelong passion and a foretaste of a greater dream. He spoke to ChineloOnwualu. Find below excerpts:

‘Growing up here was great’

I came to Nigeria with my dad, an educationist, in the early 1970s. Almost all the big secondary schools in Nigeria at that time had teachers from Nigeria, India, England, the United States etc. I grew up in the school compound of Government Secondary School, Yola (which later became General Murtala Mohammed College). There were so many languages being spoken and people of so many colours and cultures. I think I was particularly lucky to have grown up in such an environment and I think it had a very positive influence on my way of thinking.

‘I had a feast of knowledge’

I decided to be a doctor because I believe I could help people more as a doctor. After my O’ Levels and A’ Levels, I chose Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and I chose medicine; and I got the admission and I went there. After graduation, I worked at the teaching hospital in Maiduguri. In the ’70s and ’80s, the educational institutions and the medical institutions in Nigeria had some of the best talents put together in one place. My priority in those days was to learn from all these senior colleagues in different specialties.

I worked day and night and apart from an hour or two of tennis in the afternoon, there was nothing else on my mind other than learning. Sometimes I left the hospital as late as 2am. It was a feast of knowledge under the best of teachers. Later, I felt I wanted to be in control of things. There are many innovations you can introduce and many initiatives you can take in a private hospital. That’s why I started this clinic in Wuse 2 in 2005. By 2007, we had started running short of space. There was also a need to introduce many more facilities in the clinic. We moved here in Maitama in 2010.

‘We are very much at home here’

My family is all here with me. My wife, Haya, was born in Nigeria. Her parents came to Nigeria from India in the ’60s, long before my parents did. My wife and her two sisters grew up here. You could say she’s more Nigerian than I am. My father is a professor of mathematics, and he has been in this country for more than 40 years. The Indian High Commissioner gave him an award in January 2011 for his contributions to increasing the friendship between India and Nigeria. My younger brother is also a doctor. He went to the same institutions that I went to and he’s here with me. My youngest brother was born in Yola. He is an engineer and administrator by profession. He’s the hospital administrator. My sister was here until she got married. She lives in Delhi now.

We are all very much at home here in Nigeria and in India. Our friends are people from so many different countries. My children—all three of them—were born here. We go to India often—once or twice in a year. Recently we went all the way to my village, which is close to the border of India and China in the North Eastern state of Uttar Pradesh. We have an ancient family home there built by my great grandfather. The children loved it. But after spending a few weeks there, they always wanted to come back to Nigeria.

‘Why Dr. Hassan’s Clinic is popular’

There is a strong emphasis on perfection and the personal touch in our hospital. When you walk in you do not get the feeling that you are in a hospital. It is like being at home. We are very strict with our staff on discipline. Being pleasant is a part of the job for them. They know that some things could be forgiven but not unpleasantness with a patient or neglect in any way.

Our selection procedure is based on merit only—not on race, color, gender, or religion.  So we end up employing the best doctors and nurses. For example, the director of our laboratory services, Dr. G. C. Okara, is one of Nigeria’s leading lab scientists. He is also the President of the National Society of Laboratory Scientists and a person of international fame. We have mechanisms for double and triple checks, especially for tests such as those for malaria, which is of serious concern amongst Nigerians and particularly amongst the expatriate residents of Abuja. We have many patients from Abuja and from all parts of the country coming to us for treatment of drug-resistant malaria.

We have a very efficient and very outstanding team for gynecology. In fact, we get references from many places in the country. I’ll just give you an example of fibroids. Fibroids is one of the most common problems that women have in this part of the country and we do a lot of fibroid surgeries. There was this lady that came here; she had 36 fibroids. They were all removed successfully. Before the surgery she had difficulty getting pregnant because of the fibroids. The following year after surgery she got pregnant. What happens is that the word goes round and we get fibroid surgeries all the way from Sokoto, Adamawa, and Taraba states. We also have patients coming from the south, all the way from Calabar and Port Harcourt.

Also, there are many new things we have introduced here. One of the most popular amongst them is the infrared surgery for hemorrhoids (piles). There is no pain, no bleeding, and no anesthesia is required. The procedure takes 30 to 45 minutes and the patient goes home on the same day. On the same day, they can eat whatever they like. This is a surgery that was so feared in the past because it was messy, involved a lot of bleeding, and meant a long hospital stay. Many people simply lived with it to avoid the misery of surgery and the social embarrassment. Now we have patients coming from all parts of the country for this surgery.

When we moved to our new site in Maitama, a few very serious cases of AIDS and other infectious diseases were brought here and admitted. They improved contrary to the expectations of the relatives and even of some doctors. The word went round and we started getting patients from all over the country. Many patients with diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases also come to our hospital. When patients get better, the word goes round. However, healing is from God and we just do our best.

‘Honesty and humility important to healing’

I think the most important thing as a doctor is that you have to be honest to the profession. Your focus should only be the patient and nothing else. When the patient walks into my room and sits across from me, I’m not thinking of anything else except the patient. That person has probably come from a very faraway place; he has kept everything aside; he has left all his people behind; and he has come to you to look for help. So if you keep that in mind, you focus only on the problems of that patient.Basically healing is the work of God. It’s not your prescription. It’s not your medicine. So it is a big responsibility. And I think that every doctor should shoulder that responsibility with a very strong sense of honesty, dedication, and humility. If you do that you’ll find that your patients get better.

‘We want to reverse medical tourism’

We are in the process of building a larger hospital. It will be called the India-Nigeria Friendship Hospital and it will be one of the largest hospitals of its kind in this part of the world. It is along airport road. It will be ready in about 24 months, Insha Allah. We want to make it a hospital where we can do all those things for which people travel outside the country. In particular, I want to bring in the whole range of cardiac surgeries and kidney transplants. These are areas where people have a lot of difficulties.

I think that almost anything that can be treated outside of Nigeria can be done here. So keeping that in mind, we are in the process of building this 300-bed hospital. We will have everything in that hospital and we hope that at that time, instead of people travelling from Abuja to Delhi and London, we’ll get people to travel to Abuja from Cameroon and Niger Republic and other African countries.I believe that almost all the ailments for which people travel abroad for treatment can be treated here. We have good doctors in this country.

‘Abuja can become the new medical hub’

In the new hospital, we intend to bring together the best of Nigerian and Indian doctors and doctors from other places. We will also bring in the latest and most advanced equipment for all surgeries, including heart surgery, kidney transplants, and brain and cancer surgeries. It will be an indigenous hospital where the best of the two countries I love most will come together to provide healthcare at an advanced level.

When the facilities are available here people will not travel abroad. In my hospital and in other hospitals, this trend has already begun. Like I said, fewer people are now travelling for fibroids, hemorrhoids, and many other illnesses. The treatment for many of the illnesses for which people travel abroad has been available in Nigeria for decades. Many Nigerian doctors are rated as amongst the best clinicians in the world. With a decline in the economy during a certain period, many Nigerian doctors left the country, and there was erosion in the confidence of the people in the health sector. When the private sector is good and high standards are set, the confidence will return. I want to see patients coming to Abuja from Ndjamena, Accra, and Niamey, instead of patients travelling out of Abuja.

‘For me, a hospital is not a business’

A hospital for me is not a business. Almost 15% of the patients that we treat in my hospital here are treated free. Another 10% or so we allow long credits—sometimes it’s indefinite. We have never turned anybody back because they don’t have money and everybody here knows this. In fact, we have very little bureaucracy in this hospital. If a patient is very sick we don’t waste time obtaining files or all those things, we treat the patient first.

We have had a situation in which somebody was brought here from one of the markets with several gunshot wounds. He was here for over three months and his bill was nearly N3 million after several surgeries and several months of hospital stay. We were told that this person could not afford any medical treatment anywhere.He was treated and discharged.Most patients are very honourable. Some of the people that you let go come back and pay. But you know that sometimes that doesn’t happen. However, I’ve not had any case of deliberate default so far. People always come back. And even those who still cannot afford to pay come back and tell me or they tell other people in the hospital that they are still trying to put the money together.

Our new hospital will have special general wards where patients who cannot afford to pay will be treated. The treatment in these wards will be subsidized by the hospital from special funds and from funds created for this purpose. There are many people and organizations in society who would like to help such people.  Essentially without going into details, let us put it this way: the hospital and someone else will pay for such patients through an established system.

‘One way government can improve healthcare’

 

I think government should build more hospitals. I think that government hospitals should always be an option where people can get cheaper treatment. It is absolutely necessary. But no matter what happens, the private sector will always be a necessary compliment to the public sector.I do not think the entire health sector should be taken over by the private sector; that is not good. Not good at least for the society in which we live. I grew up in Nigeria; I know the society that we live in. There are a very large number of people who cannot afford treatment in the private sector.

I actually believe that the health sector should be run predominantly by the private sector. I believe people should take responsibility for their own health. I’ve always been a believer in the fact that it is not the government’s responsibility to do everything. The government’s role is regulatory and advisory. The government should build model institutions which will become the standard that people should follow. And if the private sector excels they will become a competition for the government.

One way of encouraging the private sector is that young people who graduate and have acquired some experience should be encouraged to set up private practicesin their own villages and home towns. If a young and experienced doctor has access to a soft loan that he can pay back without having to provide collateral, provided he is going to set up a clinic in his own village and he knows that he’s going to do better than his colleagues working for others in the town, I’m telling you many young people would opt for this. People don’t leave their village to go to the town because they don’t like their village. They are just looking for better opportunities.

Fact Box

Dr Hassan’s Clinic and Diagnostic Centre

Address: No. 5 Iller Crescent, Off KatsinaAla St., Off Yesderam St., Maitama.

Phone: 07066862500, 08034357604, 08069594000, 08060164004

Website: DrHassansClinic.com

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06 Jan

Our Guest Blogger Venussbay speaks with Ibok Archibong Offiong, the CEO of jewellery company Verche l’art Cessoire. A 2012 YouWin winner, the Cross Rivers native recently showcased her collection at the New York Fashion Week and appeared on Moments with Mo. Offiong has a degree in Geology and another in Oil and Gas Engineering.

How did you start your jewellery business?

I actually bumped into it during a family vacation three years ago in Paris when I walked into an accessories shop. I was wowed with what I saw. Since then I have worked very hard to set up an accessories business, working late at night sometimes and trying to balance family and work. My husband has also been encouraging me, giving me good business advise and I am still learning a lot from him.

How has your accessories business fared with the ever changing and demanding face of Nigeria’s fashion scene?

I try to be as versatile as possible in our collections; I am very much in tune with the fashion trends and also work a lot with runway shows. I try to keep an eye on the trends, see which way they are headed and work in that direction. I work with corals, gemstones and beads  to make our designs more versatile and  make available different styles for different types of women.

Do you produce here or overseas?

When I started, I used to buy the finished jewellery overseas and sell it here in Nigeria but it was cost-intensive so I had to learn how to make them myself. Right now we produce them and I have employed more hands to help me. Today we produce both locally and internationally.

What types of accessories do you offer?

Corals sets, pearls, gemstones, Swarovski elements, purses, watches, brooches, cuff-links, belts, rings, etc. We want to add shoes to the collection.

When did you first appear in a fashion show or fashion week?

Our first fashion show was the 2012 Ages of Fashion in Abuja, we also had a couple of exhibitions at Fusion, Wedexpo, Nigeria Fashion Week, Glamour magazine and the recent New York Fashion Week which was my first international fashion week.

What was the experience of New York Fashion Week like and how has it helped your business?

It’s been explosive. It has made more people become more confident In the brand.

What are the challenges in your area of fashion in Nigeria and how can it be improved?

Originality is a problem; people copy a lot and they have copied my work a lot. People should try to be more creative and original.

What do you think about wearing silver and gold together?

Back in the day it was taboo. The rules have been broken and these days you can mix most things to suit your personal style but gold to gold or silver to silver remains more classic.

What’s the best way to wear pearls?

I like to wear pearls alone and depending on the event you can choose to layer the necklaces with three or four strands. Pearls are timeless and give you a kind of class. That’s why I call my brand ‘timeless and trendy’. Pearls are so timeless; they never go out of fashion. They are one of the few rare gemstones from nature.

Where do you get your pearls from?

Most of my pearls are from Hong Kong; they actually grow them. I work with freshwater pearls, and cultured pearls a lot.

How can you spot fake pearls or corals?

Studying Geology has helped me identify real and fake gemstones; thus I can identify a real diamond when I see it. For pearls the best way to identify them is from the temperature. Most of them are cold to the touch. Pearls are irregular in shape, gritty, with holes. For the corals; they have tiny lines running through them.

Do we have pearls in Nigeria?

I don’t think we have pearls in Nigeria but we do have corals, and the more people buy them from the local sellers the more they empower them and the more the country benefits.

Who is your main customer?

Our brand is a luxury brand so it appeals to a lot of fashion designers and the upper class; politicians, governors’ wives and private individuals.

Describe your personal style.

I am very simple and very conservative with jeweller; I rarely do necklaces but I do watches and earrings.  My favourite jewellery brand include Chris Aire, Kardashians and Michael Kors.

How do you like to relax?

By going to the gym, travelling. I also enjoy watching movies, reading and swimming.

What's next for Verche l’art Cessoire?

We are working on our new store, we will participate in more international fashion weeks and looking forward to having our brand in shops abroad.

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