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‘Kaduna psychiatric hospital best in Nigeria now’
The Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Kaduna, has started commanding attention in northern states given the story of its rapid transformation in a spate of two years. The hospital is reputed for parading facilities and sophisticated equipment rated as best in Nigeria. The administrative head of the hospital, Mahmud Al Hassan, relays the success story of the hospital in this interview with Idowu Samuel.
How long have you been administering the Psychiatric Hospital?
I joined the hospital on January 22, 2008. I was in the National Health Care Centre as the Chief Administrative Officer before an opportunity came for me to be Head of Administration, Federal Neuron Psychiatrist Hospital, Kaduna.
What experience have you acquired here since joining?
Before I joined this hospital, I told someone that I had an interview in a psychiatrist hospital and was subsequently offered employment as the assistant director of administration. He advised me strongly not to take up the appointment and had wondered what I was going to do in a psychiatric home, a place was noted for crises. But I kept the decision to myself and hence did not give him a response. I sealed my mouth, but inside me I was praying that God should just use me to stabilise the place. So when I arrived, I noticed there was acrimony between the staff and the general management. It was an ongoing thing, but at the end, my coming really subdued the problem and from then on, the hospital began to witness some measure of progress.
What kind of progress are you referring to?
When I came, we didn’t have a standard medical laboratory. It was just a small cubicle, while there were few or no required medical facilities. The medical director, Dr Taiwo Sheikh, called me one day and then drew my attention to the state of disrepair in the hospital. He said as a federal health institution, there was necessity to turn it around. That was how we started devoting attention to the upgrading of facilities and purchase of state of the art medical equipment. The hospital is operating almost at maximum capacity. The Minister of State for Health, accompanied by the governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa, was here sometimes in April. Both of them came recently to commission projects newly built. They commissioned the medical laboratory block, the newly built male and female wards and a lot of bore-holes. Now we have water running in the hospital 24 hours. Prior to then, there was no sufficient water before the arrival of the medical director who has been very hardworking. Many northern states now depend on the hospital because it is rated as the best in Nigeria in terms of equipment and others for now.
How has the hardwork by the medical director impacted on the manpower here?
I always say it in my mind that the medical director, Dr Sheikh, is hardworking even to a fault. I remember last year during the fasting period, we were holding meetings on those to interview for the recruitment of nurses and doctors. We held meetings at the hospital and remained in the office till around 2:00am. It got to a point that I went to him, asking that he should allow some of us to go home to catch some rest and then we could return the following morning. I was shocked when he said no; we should stay and finish with the job once and for all because we could not afford to leave the selection process for too long in order not to subject it to undue manipulations. We closed from work that day by 5.00am. When I got home, I could not do my sahur because time was late for that. So for 48 hours, I did not taste food. In a fit of anger, I sent him a text that we should not kill ourselves in the course of doing the job. He did not reply. But the next day, he resumed to office by 9.00am while I reported to office by 11.00am. When we met eventually, he had to appeal to me to bear with the pain, and that we should just do the work to the best of our abilities. So with him in the office, the earliest time we ever close from work is 10.00 pm. Sometimes, we close as late as 12.00 midnight. It got so bad that the Board advised him to tread softly because of the precarious nature of security. But that is his way of doing things. Hardwork is his main nature.
What about the morale of workers?
He runs an open door policy. Whatever decision that the management would take, he always calls and consults them before he takes such decisions. As it is now, the management has very good rapport with the three industrial unions in the hospital, namely the Association of Resident Doctors( ARD), Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) and the National Association of Nurses and Mid-wives (NANM). In fact, he just won an award given to him recently by the National headquarters of the Medical and Health Workers Union as one of the best medical directors in the country. We were with him in Abuja when he took the award. One thing I like about him is his humility. He said the award was not for him, but for the hospital.
Do the members of staff share same view about the medical director as you do?
Honestly, they have equally been attesting to the good work he is doing in the hospital. They now have some level of freedom. In the past, they were so timid and were very low in morale. In fact, I was told that the past management one day called for an end of the year party and no staff from the hospital turned up for the party.