Dr Mahmoud Alhassan is a consultant ophthalmologist and the Chief Medical Director of National Eye Centre, Kaduna. In this interview with SUNDAY ISUWA, he disclosed that the hospital carried out successful eye transplants recently, and will soon commence the second batch of the exercise.
How do you monitor staff relationship with patients?
Well, it is by constant communication. We have various means of monitoring. Patients go through our service areas and then using the communication network with our staff at various service points through the staff record points – whether the staff is a nurse, laboratory technician, laboratory scientist, or doctor – we get feedback through the SERVICOM or our public relations unit. Those are our networks of communication and through them we make sure our patients get the best. We have encouraged our patients to speak out, good or bad, through the SERVICOM and the staff are everywhere in the hospital.
How many patients get treated in this hospital monthly?
The least number we have in a month is 6,000 patients. So it’s 48,000 patients yearly.
What are the common eye ailments you treat in this hospital?
Eye problems are very diverse, but the common problem that affects vision is the very known cataracts and glaucoma in adults. Now though many issues are coming up. People who are diabetic face problems that make them to bleed inside the eye because of the sugar. There are other issues that could also lead to blindness like itching, infections, and defective errors – for people who need to use glasses. So, one needs to be careful because a simple problem can lead to a big problem when it comes to the eye, and there’s need to use prescribed drugs appropriately.
Are most eye problems genetic or environmental?
Yes, diseases generally are caused by different issues, genetic or environmental. It’s all about what we eat. So, most diseases are linked or traced to either genetics, the environment, or diet (what we eat). But the eye diseases that are linked to genetics are glaucoma and related damage to the back of the eye
What has been the progress of this hospital since you took over as the Chief Medical Director (CMD)?
We have made tremendous progress. In the area of training, we have expanded and train in all areas. We now train nurses, both qualified and pre-qualified, that specialise in the eye. We trained more doctors to become eyes specialists, and we also expanded the scope of the training for them to specialise on glaucoma, cataract and other related issues.
In the area of service delivery, we have made tremendous progress. We are now able to take care of so many people the hospital was referring to other hospitals before – people who have retinal detachment, people with complications in the eye from diabetes, people who need cornea transplant. We’ve done the first batch of transplants and will soon do the second batch hopefully in the next two weeks when we get donors, but presently we import the cornea.
We’ve also made tremendous progress in treating young children with cancer, that is what we call glaucoma. We are going to publicise it because with or without their vision we were able to keep them alive. Those young children with big tumours -retinoblastoma (childhood cancer) – were treated. So it’s a big progress. It is better if we are able to pick up those children with such problem early.
We are also producing customised eyes. For people who have lost their eyes and want to look beautiful or handsome, we will measure their eyes and make a customised eye for them to help them look more beautiful and handsome. If we do a customised eye for you, people won’t know that you have an eye problem. You won’t be able to see, but cosmetically, you will look more beautiful or handsome and your loved ones that may have runaway will start coming back to you.
The tumour in children, is it common?
Yes, it is common and it is prevalent all over the world not just in Nigeria or the northern part of the country. The best thing is to bring those children early before the tumour grows big and destroys the eye.
Can the nurses in your School of Nursing compete with others?
Of course! We have always taken first position in the national exams. In fact, two years ago, we got 100 per cent in the pass rate. We have equally produced many health workers and one of our key mandate is to produce more health workers in various cadres. We also have a flagship training programme for doctors who want to become eye professionals. We also train others too, like eye technicians, to manage eye equipment.
The hospital looks conducive, which means that you’ve been taking good care of the structure. How about the personnel?
Yes, that is more important. If you take care of the manpower, they will give you the best. So, staff welfare has been a priority. We’ve also been training the staff on new skills because the world is moving forward with new technology emerging every day. Some staff will come and tell you they want this kind of training or that. You have to give them what they want.
You did mention that you recently conducted eye transplants. Do you really have the capacity?
Cornea transplant to be specific; yes, we have the capacity. We have well trained cornea specialists and they were trained abroad. We have the capacity and we’ve even done the first batch of cornea transplants. We have four different cornea specialist doctors trained abroad for the transplant.
We have a list of people who cannot see, but as I said earlier, the challenge is getting the donors. Once we get these corneas from donors we do the transplants. We are expecting about three pieces of the corneas and we will give priority to people who cannot see because we have the list of people that need it just like we do for cataract.
Last year, you purchased some equipment. How do these machines improve service delivery?
Interestingly, those equipment were purchased for cornea transplant. They are used to access whether or not the cornea is good. These equipment are what we are using for the eye transplant and all the equipment purchased are working. They are here in the hospital and we are using them.
You have just been appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari for another four-year term. What are the main goals you want to achieve in this tenure?
Well, the target actually is our vision to be the best in service delivery in Africa, and our mission is to be the best to Nigerians and whoever steps into this place.
What is the relationship between the management and the staff in your organisation?
It has been quite challenging, but cordial. Sometimes there is the challenge of communication where the right information is not disseminated. Sometimes you see one or two persons that might not be happy, but big establishments sometimes are faced with these kinds of issues. We’ve not had a strike in this hospital. If there is any problem it’s always from the national arm. Even the Health Workers Union gave me an award, and the hospital is not owing staff salary. So, the relationship is cordial.
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