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Hospitals know us for quality equipment -MD, GS Medics Ltd……Pleads with doctors to remember mother land

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CHRISTOPHER ONUOHA, 28,  is the Chairman/Managing Director of GS Medics Limited with head office at Ejigbo, Lagos State. The company is into sale of medical equipment apart from having a Biomedical Engineering Company that deals in maintenance, repairs and sales of medical equipment and offer support to hospitals. He talks about why he went into Medicare after studying Political Science; state of healthcare in Nigeria; why doctors are fleeing the country, among other critical issues in this interview. Excerpt:

Academic background:

I graduated from Madonna University, from the Department of Political Science, it is unbelievable; someone who studied Political Science, what is he doing in the health sector? My academic background does not really have anything to do with my profession, but this is my passion, my calling, it is my love. It has even made me to further my career in Biomedical Engineering; I am pursuing it as postgraduate studies. I am thinking of different certifications, you understand, because I feel this is my calling. This is what I want to be; this is what I love doing; it involves health; it involves life.

Looking at the healthcare system in Nigeria, like I always say, in fact, we need evolution, we need to work on it because we don’t want a situation where people are dying or people are travelling out from the country to go and get better healthcare service when we know that we can also provide such services here in Nigeria.

You are young and doing great things, that means there is hope for Nigeria. How old is your company?

July this year will make it three years.

What made you to go into the medical line?

A lot of factors necessitated my going into Medicare industry. Looking at the healthcare system in the country, it is deteriorating; a lot of people go outside the country for medical attention because they feel that the country’s healthcare system is not good enough to save life when it is needed. You are aware of the recent case of former Big Brother Housemate, Rico Suavey, who died last year. One of the reasons he died, I feel, most hospitals lack Automated External Dissimulator (AED). Most of the hospitals in Nigeria lack this medical equipment because this equipment, for example, if someone has an accident, you can actually use that machine to resuscitate back with the shock wave from the machine. So, that machine alone saves life. If all the hospitals in Nigeria can have this machine operational, I think, most people that are brought in from emergency cases will end up surviving.

A lot of factors, I would say made me to venture into the healthcare; we are not in for the profit alone, but we are looking at how we can be a great actor in the healthcare industry. We are looking at how we can aid this healthcare profession to do their best and achieve their best in the sector by providing the best and quality, affordable medical equipment to them.

How do you get your equipment?

We partner with top medical brands all over the world. One of the brands is MedEvolution. It is a US-based company. They manufacture most of these equipment we deal on. We believe in quality, because everything about Medicare involves life. So, we don’t believe in selling or distributing inferior medical items. I am sorry to say this, most equipment in the market, they deal on inferior equipment, especially equipment used for animals; they sell these to hospitals because they are affordable. But we at GS Medics, we don’t only deal on quality medical equipment but we also make sure that our prices are affordable. We have supplied many hospitals in Lagos, they can testify to this.

Are you partnering with government in order to make sure this quality equipment also get to government hospitals?

Yes, but mostly we deal with private hospitals here in Lagos and other states. We have equipped hospitals in Abuja, Port-Harcourt and other places. in fact, we are not just Lagos-centred; we are everywhere. One other reason I would say made us successful in this business is that the hospitals know that we deal with quality. So, that is what has sustained us to this stage we are.

Most of the time people that suffer health issues, not that others don’t suffer health issues, but the grassroots are mostly hit, how grassroots-oriented is your company; are you just dealing with the elite?

No, we at GS Medics, we take everybody along. Every big hospital in Nigeria started from the scratch. Okay let’s take Reddington Multi Specialist Hospital Lagos for example. People say they started from Ikeja, some say from Oshodi in a very small room, I think one room apartment, but now Reddington is everywhere in Lagos. They have in Victoria Island, they have in Lekki, Ikeja, and now they are the one that pioneered Duchess Specialist International Hospital, the one at Ikeja. So, we don’t neglect any hospital, regardless of the size of the hospital, we believe that growth is constant.

Your company is basically import based. So, how do you battle with issue of FOREX?

It is really challenging when it comes to importation. We buy from the black market and sometimes we buy from banks.

So, what are the challenges?

It affects us. Last week when we confirmed the rate of dollars, it was N770 in the black market; that is naira to dollar. It affects daily price. If you get it at N740 and we sell at that N740, next time you want to buy and it is N770, it becomes difficult; that is the effect of this kind of exchange rate, it affects a lot. We are looking at having a better government in this coming election; we pray let the best candidate win; that candidate will turn the country to a better one.

You are a young CEO, and an employer of labour. How many people are under your employ?

Well, looking at our other branches, one outside Lagos, two in Lagos, we have 15 people working in GS Medics Limited.

In the next five years, where do you want to see your company?

In the next five years, we are not just thinking about Nigeria alone, we are looking at other countries. So, we want to be one of the major actors in Africa and Europe.

Let’s be particular now, you deal on medical equipment, what particular products do you bring in?

We deal on theatre equipment, radiology equipment. When you talk about radiology, we talk about CT Scan, MRI and others; there are a lot more. Then when you talk about theatre, we look at the theatre light, different types of theatre lights, halogen bulbs, operating table, two cram bed, one cram bed. We still deal on laboratory and diagnosis equipment. We have a large range of products. Our selling point, people know us, is quality like I said.  We partner with top medical brands all over the world, Hamilton Medical, MedEvolution, and a lot more.

What bothers you a lot which you would like the government to tackle in health sector in Nigeria?

I feel government is really neglecting that aspect. But there was something government did last year that really took to my interest; most of the military hospitals were equipped with medical equipment. This company was also involved in the distribution of those equipment; we went to different states, government tried in that aspect last year. We delivered medical equipment in almost 20 states of the federation, Abuja, Kaduna, Delta, Rivers, Ondo, name it, military base and Naval base. I also plead that government should not neglect other hospitals. There are a lot of hospitals that need restructuring; government can improve on that too. If government can also assist the private hospitals, good.

Looking at the welfare of the doctors, many are kidnapped, some are not paid, and those being paid are not paid enough, leading to mass exodus of doctors. What is your view?

To me, that is one of the problems we are having in this country. I have a doctor friend that left last year, not to talk about the nurses, biomedical engineers, these are those involved in the healthcare sector in the country, but they are leaving the country, why?  It is because most of them are under-paid. Believe it or not, I pay more than what government is paying to some of these healthcare workers. So, it doesn’t make sense to me. Most of them receive peanuts as salary. Majority of my friends are doctors, I chat with them; how many of them have even asked me for money because they cannot take care of their families? I have them, both those that work in private and public hospitals; it is one of the challenges, this one travels, he prepares ground for another one, and they are leaving, I have gynaecology friend, one of the few and best in the country; now, he is planning to relocate to UK this year. Now, when he leaves, what happens to the healthcare? Leaving the work to all these inexperience medical doctors? So, I feel government should work on that aspect because it is essential. Again, you see when you are distributing medical equipment and you don’t have people to manage them, it is counterproductive.

What is your advice to Nigerian doctors?

I believe in change; change is something that is constant. Doctors should be patient in as much as we are about to change the government, let’s see what the new government will bring on board. They should not forget the mother land. They might travel out and it might be one of their family members that would need quality medical service and there would be nobody to intervene in such cases. So, my own advice is that they should be patient.

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