King Faisal Hospital in August 2020 announced the appointment of a new CEO, Prof. Miliard Derbew. Derbew is an Ethiopian national with over 40 years of experience in the health sector in different capacities.
As he takes over the country’s biggest referral hospital, there is a lot of expectations from the facility that has changed management on a number of occasion as government seeks to position it as not just a national but a regional referral facility.
The New Times’ Collins Mwai spoke to the new Derbew who extensively spoke about his plans for the facility.
You come with decades of experience in this sector, take us through this experience
I am a professor of pediatric surgery, I have been practicing medicine for nearly 40 years and pediatric surgeon for 22 years. I have been actively involved in training of pediatric surgeons in Ethiopia and regionally in eastern, central and southern Africa.
So far, at home (Ethiopia) I was involved in training pediatric surgeons from about two in 2010 to about 17 currently through our programmes. That has been one of my achievements back at home and that is what I am going to do in Rwanda.
My other experience is in leadership, I have been head of department, Dean of Medical School and I have been Vice President of the University of the Addis Ababa as well as also served in different professional societies like Secretary, Vice President, then president of College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa among other positions.
I was trained in Pediatric surgery initially in Tel Aviv, Israel then I was trained in Canada.
What are your broad plans for King Faisal Hospital in the short term?
It’s a big opportunity and honour to work in King Faisal Hospital. My plan is to primarily work on uplifting the service of King Faisal Hospital and to bring its mission and vision to reality; to make King Faisal hospital a centre of excellence in Eastern African and beyond.
That can be achieved through some of the components such as infrastructure which is being expanded. When the expansion programme is complete, the hospital’s bed capacity will rise to more than 250 from 160 currently.
What of services?
Some services like laboratory services will be state of the art. Diagnostic centres too, currently we have the best Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners which have the latest technology, same for the computerized tomography (CT) scan which has capacity of 128 slices, among the most modern and recent.
We also have the installation of the Cath labs which will make a big change for cardiac patients and will also attract many people from outside Rwanda to come seek the services.
(*Catheterization laboratory, commonly referred to as a cath lab, is an examination room in a hospital or clinic with diagnostic imaging equipment used to visualize the arteries of the heart and the chambers of the heart and treat any abnormality found.)
Any new services being introduced soon?
We are working with the University of Michigan to start a transplant centre. This time it will continuous service like other services as opposed to being mission-based. We hope that will be implemented in less than one year.
Cardiothoracic surgery is set to start soon as a regular service.
For years, Rwandans have often had to travel out of the country seeking specialized medical services most not available here, any planned intervention to mitigate this?
As we do the above, we will work on capacity building such as training physicians and surgeons to achieve continuity. What we will do is find a focal person in the country who will lead this programme.
For instance, we have a cardiac surgeon, they will be responsible to lead the programme and service. We will also have local physicians owning these programmes to allow sustainability of the initiatives. We will empower local physicians and surgeons, training them, building their capacity as well as setting up infrastructure.
This will reduce transfer of patients out of the country which is very expensive. The whole purpose of building King Faisal Hospital to be a centre of excellence is to ensure that we can manage almost all kind of cases within the country. That will be the direction that I am working on.
An adequate pool of qualified medical practitioners and specialists has remained a challenge to the local health sector, what are your plans especially given your academic background?
As a pediatric surgeon, beyond my tasks in management as CEO, I will also be involved in promoting Pediatric Surgery Training Programme and services at King Faisal Hospital.
We have adequate infrastructure, now we are working on human capacity building. We will be working with several universities abroad from Europe, America and within Africa.
When we build our human resource, we will also target Rwandan diaspora practicing medicine outside the country, we will try to attract them back home. If that does not satisfy our human resource needs, we will reach out to African Diaspora as well as professionals from across the world.
We will also work with volunteers and partners. We will also be working with the American College of Surgeons, they have generously agreed to support our training programme in surgery in three areas; acute case surgery, cardiac surgery and plastic surgery and vascular surgery.
This kind of training will be provided by partners from the American College of Surgery. Wisconsin University and John Hopkins University are willing to work with us in different areas.
You arrived amidst a delayed expansion and renovation works of the hospital...
Expansion and renovation were supposed to be finished in June, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was initially pushed to September which is also not feasible. Now we are working to get a specific date.
The completion is important for us to be able to offer the services we have lined up.
We will also have changes in some of the hospital services when we finish the new building, there will be many rooms in the new building, so we will have more space for out-patients and admissions. Not only beds but quality admission facilities.
Globally, reputable hospitals have significant research capacities to be able to understand better the health challenges affecting their clients. What are your plans around this?
With the training services being planned, it goes hand in hand with research. We have a research and education committee that was already established in the hospital and this will work on encouraging faculty and staff to do more research directed towards health issues and problems that are locally relevant.
We will continue encouraging our staff to do research and we also have a research training plan to build their capacity for research.
We will run our training programmes in partnership with the University of Rwanda, we have already established a very good relationship. We are also partnering with the University of Global Health Equity to build the health infrastructure of the country.
We also have a plan to work closely with the Rwanda Military Hospital as well as CHUK and CHUB and other hospitals around. The aim is not to only build the human resource capacity of King Faisal but all institutions and hospitals in the country. We are getting very good support from the Ministry of Health.
What are your thoughts on the current staff composition?
Regarding staff, I am impressed by the staff composition, I have previously interested in some of them in my previous regional roles. I am very much interested to work with them.
They have all been very supportive since my arrival. I feel at home.Follow https://twitter.com/ByCollinsMwai