Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nigeria: 'Making Women Pregnant Gives Me Pleasure'

Lagos — Dr. Michael Ogunkoya, a consultant gynaecologist and fertility specialist is the managing director, Hope Valley Female and Male Fertility Centre, an assisted conception unit. He has been able to get numerous women pregnant as a result of the state-of-the-art equipment at the centre. The hospital has been recognised as the best facility institution in Sub-Sahara Africa with a very impressive record of over 900 babies. He spoke with MARY EKAH.
He had his professional training both within and outside Nigeria and has worked with reputable hospitals in Nigeria and overseas. The Nigerian/British trained gynaecologist who has been practising since 1975 had returned to Nigeria from the United Kingdom in 1992 as gynaecologist and started a hospital in Dolphin, Ikoyi, Lagos, which he managed till 2001 when he decided to start off with the Hope Valley, an assisted conception unit.
The aim of the assisted conception treatment carried out by Hope Valley is to unite the sperm from the man and the egg from the woman to produce embryos in the laboratory. These embryos are then placed in the incubator for 48 hours and then transferred into the uterus to development a pregnancy.
It is about nine years now and Dr. Michael .O. Ogunkoya, a consultant gynaecologist and fertility specialist as well as the managing director, Hope Valley Female and Male Fertility Centre, an assisted conception unit, will soon celebrate the birth of a thousand babies that he has facilitated in the last few years at the fertility centre. He recalled that it has not been easy as in terms of looking back at when it all started. But today, the centre is reckoned as the best facility centre in Sub-Sahara Africa with a very impressive record of over 900 babies.
"We had to collaborate with some team from the United Kingdom (UK) as most centres in the world do in order to really acquire the skills-theoretical and practical aspects. Apart from that, there were the problems of finance and the fact that if you want to acquire technology from abroad, you are definitely going to cross some hurdles. We had to invite investors into the business because of huge amount of money involved at that time and luckily one was able to do that successfully, especially through friends.
"And so far, they have not been disappointed because not only have we been successful in what we do, but we have also been able to give them back some dividends. Of course, the investors would have been happier if they were given more because they were good people and could have put their money in the bank than investing it in a medical stuff," the doctor said.
However, in terms of the job he does, Ogunkoya is happy to serve the population as most doctors would, but he still has a lot of tasks at hand in terms of reaching out to his potential clients in the sense that many of them still do not know that this kind of facility at Hope Valley could exist in Africa, much less Nigeria. Another challenge for him is that even many of the few who know such facility exists in Nigeria, cannot afford it even when Ogunkoya claims his hospital charges far less than what it costs to get such treatment abroad.
"We spend a lot of money in trying to reach out and educate the population as well as creating the awareness. It has been my pleasure though because at the end of the day I get somebody pregnant; the couple is happy and we are happy as well," Ogunkoya said. He wants government to come in and assist couples having challenges in conception as it is done in other countries of the world. But that has not been the case as he bemoaned the lack of interest of government in couples that have such challenges. "We know the situation in this country; they have not been able to even help themselves not to talk of other people.
"But these are things that happen in other countries - government coming in to assist couples in purchase of drugs or pay part of the treatment fee. On our part at Hope Valley, we are charging below what we should be charging and that is our own contribution to the plights of couples who find themselves in this category", the gynecologist said.
He stressed that Hope Valley is very proud of what it is doing to have acquired the type of technology it did so far and to also have been able to produce the number of babies it has done within the little space of time. "This is something that is very pleasing to us, especially when we compare ourselves with other facility units in other parts of the world," Ogunkoya said with great satisfaction.
Explaining the process he goes through in getting numerous women pregnant at his unit, Ogunkoya said, "it is a very scientific procedure and that is the technical part of getting people to conceive". To this end, Ogunkoya most often do a lot of talking with the patients, most come to him with a pre-conceived idea of what it should be and bearing in mind that almost ninety per cent of them must have gone through all such of treatment modalities in past. Some going to the churches, native doctors and even having to go from pillar to post and therefore, when they come to a place like the Hope Valley, they are financially down, emotional drained and sometimes confuse, not knowing what to do and who to trust.
"So it is always very important for us to actually put them down to a resting phase. Here, they usually need a lot of counseling, so we talk a lot after which we introduce our scheme to them and explain it in very simple language. After all, what causes a baby is the combination of sperm and egg. It is as simple as that. We tell them simply that our job is to get the egg and the sperm, mix them together and then transfer the mixture back to the woman. Then we study scientifically what it takes to do so and we do that," the Doctor said. And as for the logic, he said it is much more than egg and sperm becoming embryo.
Ogunkoya, who has been helping women get pregnant since 1986 when he became a gynecologist, started the foremost technology about 19 years ago in Nigeria.
For him, nothing gives him pleasure and joy as getting women pregnant. "I am not only the one that is excited when we succeed in getting a physically and emotionally famished couple fruitful. The whole unit is usually happy and so excited, fulfilled and happy. The thing that really moves us is not the token we get as profit because that is quite small, but the fact that if you get these patients pregnant with the hassle and frustration that she came in with, it puts a smile on her frustrated face and so each success makes us so excited," he further explained.
On what stand out Hope Valley from other assisted facility centres in Nigeria.
He said, "How many units in Nigeria have been around for nine years and how many can boast of producing more than 900 babies?" That is probably an end result of a lot of other qualities like hard work, diligence, paying attention to details and having standard equipments that are used to produce good results as well as quality management".
To be able to move near the patients, Hope Valley has established satellite centres in all the geo-political zones in Nigeria. "By establishing satellite centres in other parts of Nigeria, we also try to help the doctors who refer them to learn from our technology as one of our aims is to teach the doctors and nurses coming behind us about what we do, so that they don't have to come to our head office in Lagos all the time for one explanation or the other. This also distinguishes us from other fertility centres in Nigeria because we are about the first and only fertility centre that has satellite centres in Nigeria as opposed to primary centres."
He has got lots of constraints on towing this line, but he has been able to surmount them taking one challenge at a time. "To become a doctor was very difficult to start with, especially for those of us that came from the village," Ogunkoya noted. To start off a unit like his, he said was very daunting. He said: "first, you need to have the interest that carried you along. You also need to have some form of contact with people who have done this kind of thing in the past. I was fortunate to have trained in England under somebody who is now a doyen of this profession in England, Prof. Kraft with who I did my intern back in 1981. So I picked my interest from there. You needed to have had such contact and having such contacts mean that you have been very hard working trying to proof a point.
"And having come back to establish it, finance, like I said earlier was an issue. It was quite difficult and because I did not have the kind of money expected to put up such a business, and so I had to call in some investors and if you know what that means, it is not easy too. Some will disappoint you, some will promise and turn you down at the end of the day and having crossed that hurdle, they needed money to go and buy the equipment.
"It is just like buying a car and you really need to know what car and what it's for. Then you need to go for the training. We needed to look for a collaborative team that is those who have been doing it successfully and that you can collaborate with so that you could be put through. And therefore we needed to get a team from abroad who would be coming here regularly to train and treat our patients," he said.
Apart from the financial problem faced by Ogunkoya initially before he eventually was able to stand on his own about six years ago, there were also the limitations that had to do with the patients. "Some patients are very good and would not give you any headache, while others will give you a lot of headaches. But they are patients and in terms of doctor-patient relationship, the patient is always right. But then you need to move near them, talk to them and finds out what is wrong even when the problem is not only medical. So some times the patients pose challenges that even adversely affect their medical challenges."
Ogunkoya was quick to advise couples that if they have been having unprotected sex for more than a year without conception, they should admit that there is something wrong and that a state of infertility should be considered. "Depending on the age of the couple, the frequency of intercourse, we believe that by the time you have tried for three years, one way or the other, and then you must definitely seek for assistance by way of assisted conception techniques."
At Hope Valley, he said each couple is given a customised medical service that suits their particular needs and it takes four to five weeks on the average to attain a success of conceiving. "Because there are so many technologies that we use, we try through consultations and tests to know which method of the technologies would suit each couple needs so that we can put a round ball in a round hole," the doctor emphasised.
Ogunkoya who craves to improve more on the success rate of the IVF in Nigeria, further revealed that the success rate of IVF throughout the world is not different from what is obtained in Nigeria, adding; "In fact some time we surpass that and I reckon that throughout the world, the success rate would further increase."

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