by Isy Coker
Yes there is such a business as the flying doctors of Nigeria. Here is what they do, you get injured and need to get to the hospital; you get airlifted. This is certainly a much needed service, as we all know, driving through Lagos traffic when critically ill could cost you your life! This happened to a friend of mine who got stuck in Lagos traffic and died traumatically from a sickle cell blood clot on his way to the hospital. This same situation also happened to the founder of the flying doctors sister!
Here is her story culled from an interview she had earlier with JideSalu:
interviewer: the unfortunate tragic death of your 12 year old sister had an impact on you. In what way, if I may ask?
Dr Ola: That had a profound impact on me. I would have never started the Flying Doctors if I had not been through that experience.
It’s always ‘someone else’s problem’ till it becomes your own.
I took it as a personal call to action.
Interviewer: There was something a statement you made, and this is it (Every time I saw reports about Nigeria on the TV or read about them in magazines, I felt that same sense of compunction, knowing that I had the skills and knowledge to make a difference. I realised my skills as a doctor and a trainee pilot could perhaps be better utilised, and I knew that I could be instrumental in initiating what has already been quoted as ‘the single most influential healthcare innovation in Nigeria this decade’.) that made an impression on me. Do you now believe you are making a difference? How is your dream different from reality?
Dr Ola: I believe my company is making a huge difference.
For the first time ever in Nigeria, having an accident on the motorway, isn’t a death sentence, patients can be transferred rapidly between hospitals for treatment.
It’s estimated that there are close to 7000 deaths per year in Nigeria’s industrial sector that means every week nearly 150 people die at work.
The biggest reason is because of a lack of ambulance facilities to get them to an appropriate facility. The flying doctors industrial cover meets this need directly.
Interviewer: You are one determined young lady. You spent approximately 9 months saving half of your salary every month and immersed yourself in books about management, business and finance. You also went on courses, spoke to various entrepreneurs and spent many a night crafting your business plan. I bet it wasn’t that straight forward and easy. But your were that focused. Is that what it takes to succeed in life?
Dr Ola: It’s the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, without a doubt. Now my company is actually running I can laugh at all the times I spent carrying my laptop around sourcing for funding and coming home in tears.
There were many days that I didn’t eat because I was so busy-I lost so much weight my mother hardly recognised me! I lost touch with most of my friends-they didn’t understand. I ate, drank and slept my business. And there still isn’t a moment that I’m not brainstorming some aspect of my career.
So definitely, focus is key.
Doing a great job isn’t enough, you will get the results you deserve by doing a brilliant job.
Interviewer : So many would say or think that as a money making business, and rightfully so, it may be out of reach of the common man (if you get what I mean). I assume it will be readily available to the rich oil company workers and co. What would you say to that?
Dr Ola: The Flying Doctors uses a revenue generating model, but it is not for profit
But I do take your point about it being available to rich oil company workers. But when these rich oil companies take out cover, it protects all the employees of the company, from the millionaire CEO to the cleaner of N15, 000/month. If the cleaner has a serious accident at work, then she will be airlifted and treated, just like the CEO.
What I do hope is that more states will take up cover as well making it increasingly available to the common man and I know that as Nigeria starts to take healthcare reform more seriously, this will begin to happen.
Interviewer: Tell us a bit about your social enterprise concept as well as the Flying Doctors Foundation.
Dr Ola: Social enterprises are businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners. The Flying Doctors centres around this concept.
Our surpluses all go into the Flying Doctors foundation which funds public healthcare projects.
That is what we liked about her business idea, the fact that the business helps everyone but should be made available to the common man. Perhaps the president or his aides are reading this, if the roads cannot be developed or people do not respond to emergency vehicles then the best solution to saving a life is via airlifting. How about allocating 30 billion in funds to this venture?