Q & A: King Faisal hospital boss speaks out on restructuring

Qn: The dismissal of over 100 staff members of the hospital has caused an uproar while others think it was a hastily made decision...Ans: Actually the number of people who worked here until yesterday adds up to 100.
Dr Alex Butera during the interview. The New Times / Timothy Kisambira.
Dr Alex Butera during the interview. The New Times / Timothy Kisambira.

Following the decision last week by the management of King Faisal Hospital to lay off nearly 100 employees, the former has stressed that the move was part of the ongoing restructuring of one of the country’s referral hospitals. In an interview with The New Times’ Felly Kimenyi,  Dr Alex Butera the Acting CEO, also maintained that the lay off was done after wide consultation. He  also tackles the privatisation of the facility, among other issues. Below are the excerpts.

Qn: The dismissal of over 100 staff members of the hospital has caused an uproar while others think it was a hastily made decision...

Actually the number of people who worked here until yesterday adds up to 100.

There is a misconception about the nature of the restructuring that saw the lay off of our employees. What happened after an evaluation that took place for over six months, we decided to lay off a small number of employees, while others were redeployed to the Ministry of Health for placement in other hospitals.

Apart from these, others were given a six-month suspension and will continue getting two-thirds of their monthly salary as they look for employment. After these months, they will be terminated with their benefits. Others were laid off while others were sent into retirement.

Qn: How do you intend to fill the void created by this number of people?

: It is true many people had to leave their jobs at this hospital but it does not necessarily mean that they left a void. After an evaluation, we actually found that many of them were surplus to requirement.

However, those gaps that were created had to do with the skills required to deliver the ambitious plan of the hospital.

So instead of having a big number of people who do not meet the requirement of the services we want to offer, they had to leave to create space for recruitment of the staff with the requisite skills.

What I can tell you at this point in time is that the number of staff required to run the hospital – even going by international standards – is available at 80 per cent. This is an international norm not only in hospitals but also in any other organisation. So there is no crisis perse.

But still we are out to recruit people from all over the world with the necessary skills and a drive is on to train our people. We need to maintain, or even offer better services because as you know, this is the only hospital in the region that is accredited by the Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa (COHSASA).

Qn: A taskforce was set up by cabinet to oversee the restructuring of services offered by King Faisal Hospital. What is the nature of this restructuring?

The restructuring is aimed at making the facility not only a national but also a regional centre of excellence by providing the best services by top notch professionals using the best equipment.

This process has taken about seven months and it is a result of the commitment of the President of the Republic to ensure that the people of this country get the best health services. He mandated a team from his cabinet which is led by the Prime Minister and other ministers to follow through the process of fast tracking the restructuring exercise.

Qn: It is said that the hospital wants to offer services that you have identified as unique and which will not be acquired anywhere else in the region. What are these services?

Knowing the region we live in, there is scarcity of speciality and super-speciality health service providers and because these are not commonly available both here and across the region, this is the right time to start offering these services here instead of seeking them in distant places like India.

These services we are talking about include cardiac surgery, kidney transplant, and brain surgery among others. Some of them we have already got and others we are in the process of acquiring them.

We are also using technology to harness the services we offer. Like presently, we do not actually use ex-ray films, we are using a computerised system where, on any computer, you can access your photos and this system is called picture archiving and communication system.

The other initiative which we have embarked on is the hospital management information system that will make us paperless.

Qn: You say you want to provide high quality services to the entire region yet you have been accused of failing to meet the expectations of Rwandans themselves, don’t you think you are being overly ambitious?

We know it is an ambitious process but the government of Rwanda is ready to travel the journey and it is our wish that Rwandans get the best. The framework is there, the will is there and we have already embarked on this journey, and will not look back.

And the ambition of going beyond borders may not be necessarily be driven by the number of the services we offer but rather the quality of these services. However small or big in number of these services, they will be top quality to ensure that people do not cross borders to seek these services and of course have some people from the region come here.

We are already registering patients from neighbouring countries mainly from Burundi and the DRC – about 5,000 in a year – and as our services get better, this number will definitely increase.

Qn: Faisal recently gained autonomy from Rwanda Biomedical Centre what is the rationale behind this and how  will the hospital operate under this autonomy?

The hospital was moved from RBC to reduce bureaucracy. The hospital now has its own procurement system and can decide on the needs according to our clients.

We are now a private company limited by shares and fully registered under Rwanda Development Board. Government is the major shareholder but this company does not pay dividends to shareholders simply because it is a social enterprise. If it makes profit, this money will be reinvested to make the facility better.

Qn: What would you like to add in conclusion?

I think this is an opportune moment to thank the government of Rwanda for the major investment it has sunk in this hospital to ensure that it offers the best services and as management of the hospital it is our mandate to ensure that this investment pays dividends; not in terms of money but in terms of improved services.

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