President/Chief Executive Officer, Clinotech Group, a Canada based conglomerate, Dr. Harrison Ofiyai is a man of many parts. A Nigerian in Diaspora and Canadian citizen, Ofyai is a clinical research scientist, biomedical industrialist and hospital developer rolled into one.
His company manufactures diagnostics kit presently in use in more than 75 countries including Nigeria.The company is also into construction of hospitals across Europe.
Recently, the Rivers State government engaged his expertise in actualising the construction of a 1000-bed specialist hospital with the most up to date medical equipment. The 13- storey building to be named after Justice Adolphus Karibi Whyte (Rtd) is reputed to be one of the best in West Africa.
In this interview with Kingsley Adegboye, Ofyai, who is developer of the project, speaks on the gigantic edifice and the benefits it will offer the state government in terms of foreign exchange and job creation. Excerpts:
How did the whole idea of the specialist hospital in Port Harcourt start?
The Justice Adolphus Karibi Whyte (JAKW) Specialist Hospital, Port Harcourt, is designed and is being constructed, equipped and furnished by Clinotech Turnkey and Management Ltd, a subsidiary of Clinotech Group of Companies, Canada.
The project came about when we came to Nigeria to conduct the Viability Study Phase of a Joint Venture Manufacturing of Medical Diagnostic Devices and Pharmaceuticals in Nigeria, a project co-sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
We had opportunity to be invited among other potential service providers in the industry to attend to the 1,000-bed capacity hospital requirements of the Rivers State government under the Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, By the time Clinotech was short-listed and selected finally, it was the desire of the Governor to establish a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) to manage the project.
However, the PPP expectations and arrangements were not adequately addressed at that time for some crucial reasons such as lack of ready design inputs, engineering drawings and Bill of Quantities (BoQ) as well as feasibility studies and business plan of the project. Any way, Clinotech contacted the Canadian government for international funding of its proposed 60 per cent equity participation for the PPP, Export Development Canada (EDC), which is in charge of financing international projects. They accepted and traveled to Nigeria at our invitation.
Why is it taking so long to get the project off ground?
This was due to logistics. We have now finally moved to its desired location at Greater Port Harcourt Development Area near Port Harcourt International Airport after changing sites twice. The previously completed project drawings at the initial site at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) old campus were not allowed for use because of height restrictions by the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) due to closeness to the airport Subsequently, new project drawings were commenced and completed with increased speed and dedication.
Work on the new site is in progress focussed on completing the sub-structures including the basement floor, which houses the Operation Theatres, Recovery Rooms, Intensive Care Units (ICU), Cancer (Oncology) Diagnostic and Treatment Centers, Radio-diagnostic Imaging Centre, Utilities and others that constitute about 30 per cent of the whole project.
Having completed the substructures, which in many cases is never appreciated by most clients because of the money spent underground strengthening the weight bearing capacities, the 12 floors above ground level can be completed faster. More than that, the hospital, when completed will not only become a foreign exchange earner for the country but also provide jobs for the people. We have not had any kind of hospital architecture like this in Nigeria.
Hospital construction has gone beyond the use of surface or conduit wiring. What is in vogue in developed climes is all the wiring will run on a cable tray, so that if and when there is a problem it can be quickly detected. The wiring is even different. We are using halogen stuff so that even if it does have problems, it will not burn, it has effect of reducing the effect of fire. Beyond that, even if it burns, it does not have any toxic smell.
Whatâ€™s your view on the state of hospital construction in Nigeria?
Technology of hospital building is not here yet. And that is why a lot of architects in other climes who have participated in such kind of construction really appreciate the kind of technology we are putting into the building. We started this project seven months ago. Most hospitals in Nigeria would fail genetoria test because most of them still use brooms to sweep the floor instead of genetoria equipment that can be used, washed, disinfected and returned. In this one we have a building, you will not see any theatre having four corners. A modern theatre room is supposed to be curved because if it is not, it will be very difficult to clean up.
When is the likely completion date?
Hopefully towards the end of next year if it is not slowed down by funding. Talkiing about funding, I think the state government has been extremely cooperative in this regard because the initial 20 per cent mobilizstion was released all most immediately and at once so that we could move to site immediately and I pray they continue in that regard so that we can complete as scheduled.
We are working 24 hours shift there at the moment. I will say though that the initial delay was due to the normal supervision and evaluation expected from the ministry of works and housing. You know at every stage, the ministries concerned must be able to evaluate before we move over to the next stage but the governor has resolved all that now.
Whatâ€™s the total cost of the project?
Without total Bill of Quantity, it was estimated to cost $150million. Abroad, the cost would have trebled. A 250-bed space according to some officials in the State was to cost about $300m. All those ones have nothing at stake here, but we do it because we are part of this country.
I was born here and also grew up here. We are doing a lot of cost saving measures here because we are a stakeholder in this project. I was to bring in 60 per cent of the fund while the government comes with 40 per cent. If this project was to be given to some other consulting firms, they would charge for consultation, and the design would be paid for before the main contract.
What other hospital projects have you handled?
I have built 300-bedded and 550-bedded hospitals in Turkey, Russia and Uzbekistan. In Romania, we were a sub contractor in the construction of the hospital including furnishing it, this was a 200-bed building.