The deficit in the quality of services available in Nigeria’s healthcare industry is fuelling a rise in the development of multi-specialist practices with new health facilities sprouting across Lagos.
Investors are finding attraction in the challenge of the growing burden of non-communicable diseases and how the shortage of infrastructural capacity and skilled personnel required to satisfy local demand is pushing Nigerians abroad.
Specialist services, including surgical treatments for solving heart, kidney, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory problems have become increasingly uncommon.
For instance, a 120-bed medical park for specialised medical and diagnostic services is being developed on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, through a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Lagos State government and the IASO Consortium.
It is expected to provide specialised care in cardiology, orthopaedics, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, oncology, urology, and a host of other services.
The Lagos American Speciality Hospital (LASH) partly debt-financed with $50 million from Afreximbank is also coming up in Victoria Island.
Sponsored by Odunlami Kola-Daisi, the facility will encompass 50 beds, focusing on orthopedics, oncology, cardiology, nephrology, and rehabilitation. These are non-communicable diseases with clinical specialties that cause people to seek advanced care or medical treatments abroad, Afreximbank said.
Also in the works are Massey Children’s Hospital, and Diamed Diagnostic Centre, among others.
According to Estate Intels, a real estate data platform, more than 48 percent of developments under construction in Lagos are purposed for office, retail, residential, and healthcare.
Health analysts say the development is a trend expected to continue as it signals the much-anticipated improvement in the healthcare industry.
Debo Odulana, founder of Doctoora, a platform that offers practitioners equipment for rent, said part of the reasons Nigeria is losing skilled health professionals to countries with advanced medical care, is because of the exorbitant rate of establishing private practice in areas such as cardiology, gynaecology, and neurosurgery.
“There is a gap. Medical tourism is a symptom of a gap. It shows that we don’t have the capacity to deliver the treatments here. So those investments are needed,” Odulana said.
Kelina Hospital opened a new facility in Victoria Island, Lagos, last year after an eight-year stint in Abuja that saw Lagos residents checking in for what it describes as ‘surgeries without scars’ or ‘minimal access surgeries’.
It recorded a landmark feat last month for conducting 5,000 surgical operations without a case of fatality. 250 of those surgeries were for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, a condition in men in which the prostate gland is enlarged and not cancerous but can obstruct urine and lead to kidney damage.
The hospital’s edge is enabled by some high-tech equipment that is few in the country and Africa at large. For example, the 120 Watts Laser and 150 Watts Laser was probably the only one in Lagos as of 2022.
Also in Victoria Island, a three-floor residential apartment is being repurposed into a hospital named Wheathill Hospital. The project will be delivered in 2023, according to Estate Intel.
Modupe Elebute-Odunsin said the private sector has become the place to go to get medical care due to the lack of developed public systems in most of Africa.
What specialist centres are doing is to bring international standards of care home to curb the medical tourism and help patients enjoy family support in their weakest moments, she explained.
“We have something called a tumour board where we have Nigerian specialists based in the UK and US come on Zoom and we discuss every case. This is so that we are treating using international guidance to manage our patients,” Elebute-Odunsi said in an interview with BusinessDay.
“This is a hashtag ‘Why go abroad?’ This is international healthcare in Lagos Island done by skilled doctors who have trained and worked abroad for many years and are here to look after patients on a day-to-day basis in a facility that promotes healing.”
According to PharmAccess Foundation, the private health sector’s response to the increasing demand for quality services, increasing middle class, and huge outbound medical tourism, is the expansion of existing private hospitals and establishment of new ones.
It identified a growing trend in the establishment of hospitals in Nigeria by Nigerian healthcare specialists in the Diaspora and also investors from other regions, especially the Middle East.
Most of the foreign-owned hospitals raise capital, engage advisory, design, and infrastructure development firms as well as engage specialist staff from their home countries, so their needs tend to be focused on equipment partners with on-the-ground support for quick turn-around maintenance.
The ones owned by Nigerians in the Diaspora source specialist staff from their colleagues outside the country. Their needs are typically financing.