Dr. Paul Jesuyajolu: Facilitating access to free quality surgical care

Graceland Hernia Foundation is the first specialized Hernia foundation in Nigeria. In collaboration with First Graceland Hospitals, the foundation organizes Medical outreach that includes free surgical workshops and seminars especially for the financially challenged, the farmers, local fishermen as well as artisans and petty traders. The Chief Medical Director of First Graceland Hospitals, the precursor of the foundation, Dr. Paul Jesuyajolu is a goal-driven, compassionate and accountable professional with over 25 years of management experience in healthcare setting. Dr. Paul spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with our reporter, Nnamdi Nwokolo.

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What informed your choice of career?

My career choice was fortuitous because all I wanted to study was Structural Engineering. The reason being that in my small community, when construction is going on, the visit of the site Engineer makes all the difference. In my final year in secondary school, I had already applied to study building technology but somehow towards the end of our stay in the school, some people came to our school for career counseling and all seven members of the team were all medical doctors. Their composure and appearance really got me attracted and I opted to study Medicine instead and fortunately for me I was in the science class which qualified me to study the course. Looking back now, I’ll tell you that I’m more than fulfilled towing that career path and if I come back to the world several times, I’ll gladly want to be a medical doctor.

About Graceland Hernia Foundation:

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From my background, I wanted to start my practice immediately so that I can give a helping hand to my younger ones. It wasn’t easy for me because of my humble background but a rare combination of patience, determination, focus and prayers saw me through school. I came into surgery very early in my career and to the glory of God, there’s practically no surgery that we cannot do. By 2003, I received a call to serve God and I took it with enthusiasm. I was preaching the gospel as well as organizing seminars in schools, churches and everywhere. I did quite a lot but I knew that I didn’t have the grace to set up a church. I was in a medical conference in Gboko when I got an inspiration to start a foundation with a view to impact more on the society. I created the platform to take care of the poor in the society and that was how the foundation came into place. The sole aim of Graceland Hernia Foundation is to eradicate hernia among the people and help them get rid of the disease by education, surgeries as well as creating awareness to reduce mortality.

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What has been the most challenging experience?

When we started free surgeries in line with our goal, it was done at no cost to the patient as the whole money comes from my personal funds. The sustainability of the project became stunted because people never responded to our plea for support even though we wrote to so many religious, voluntary, civil service and charity organizations. We decided to change our strategy which is to charge a little percentage of the cost of the surgery on the patient to make them partners. We started with charging ten thousand and the response was much better. Our increase in price is always predicated on the response and feedback we get from the patients. Today we charge Twenty Five thousand Naira for a surgery that ordinarily would have cost Three Hundred Thousand Naira. To a large extent the funds has sustained us but it has not allowed us to do more for people who cannot even afford the little we are charging. We are urging charity organizations to key into this programme to help indigent people access quality surgical care.

What is the idea behind the surgical mission to Ilutitun?

The idea to facilitate this mission to my ancestral home is as a result of my desire to effect a positive change in the lives of my people. To the glory of God, the outreach has remained a watershed in the life and the history of the people of Osoro land [Ilutitun] in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo state. For example, the maiden edition in 2012, we successfully conducted 47 surgeries absolutely free. 23 medical doctors were in attendance with 31 nurses and Mid-wives as well as technical crew. In the second edition of 2014, a total of 74 surgeries were conducted free and it was very successful as no loss of life was recorded in the programme. We are supposed to be there by now but unfortunately, the economy is on a spin so we couldn’t sponsor the programme. We are still hoping that we go again this year but if not, by next year we’ll be there. We are at the forefront of making surgery affordable, accessible and available to the rural peasants and the urban slum dwellers.

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Do you desire government collaboration on the project?

The surgical expedition to Ilutitun has been a pleasant experience in corporate social responsibility. I would say the Ilutitun outreach is in collaboration with the state government as we use public health institution for the programme and the Sole Administrator of Okitipupa Local government supported us in the last edition. The nurses we use are also on the payroll of the government. The Catholic Church in the town is also in collaboration with us as they provide the food for the team throughout the duration of the programme. Our objective is to develop better coordination, collaboration, joint participation and understanding amongst various stakeholders thus enhancing and promoting the welfare of the rural populace, eradicating hernia and other surgical diseases at affordable rate.

In five years:

What I would’ve loved to do is to cover as many indigent people all over the federation as possible. We have established our name and reputation all over the country but my joy will be to extend this programme all over the nation with support from everybody. In today’s economy with fewer able to afford the cost of operation, we offer the most affordable treatment for all hernia related issues and we have contributed to the reduction in the mortality associated with its complications. In the next five years, we hope to extend our services to reach as many people as possible nationwide.

What drives you?

The medical outreach is a personal fulfillment of a dream conceived several years ago. Although the beginning has been very tough, the success so far recorded has been a self motivating factor. What with the smiles we brought to the faces of many especially those who would never have had access to quality surgical care. I feel personally blessed to be a useful tool in the hands of God to bring about a positive change in the lives of fellow human beings. More importantly, our efforts have made for the designation of Ilutitun Comprehensive health Center as an ABITYE BABY FRIENDLY HOSPITAL. Because of the passion I have for my work, it relaxes me.

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