Enterprise

Hospital group targets to cut niche with deaf patients unit

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Ms Salome Chiira, Radiant Group of Hospitals proprietor during the interview. PHOTO | POOL

For most Kenyans, seeking healthcare is as simple as walking into a hospital, paying consultation fee, chatting briefly with a doctor who then comes up with a diagnosis and prescribes a treatment plan.

It is, however, not so simple when it comes to the deaf. For a proper diagnosis, they have to rely on third parties to communicate often intimate information that is ordinarily protected by doctor-patient confidentiality.

It can be undignifying, but such is their lot. To get the care they need they are forced to give up their right to privacy.

Ms Salome Chiira, the proprietor of Radiant Group of Hospitals believes patients shouldn’t have to give up one right to get the other.

The medic and holder of a degree in nursing and management first saw this disconnect when she worked for a non-governmental organisation that dealt with deaf people. Then, she observes, there was little she could do.

“Over years, I have taken note of the exclusion, having started a department for the deaf in the NGO I worked for which is still operational to date,” says Ms Chiira.

But now an entrepreneur, she says she is in a place to finally do something about it.

Greater treatment outcomes

She believes that having staff who understand sign language is key to safeguarding patients’ privacy and ensuring greater treatment outcomes. Patients are more likely to freely express themselves without considering the feelings or how the translator will perceive them.

Radiant Group has engaged Kambui School For The Deaf to train its medics and auxiliary staff.

“We are working on having services that stand out with staff who understand deaf patients. We will have nurses and receptionists trained on sign language,” she says.

And to stand out, Ms Chiira says it is crucial to specialise. She has chosen Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) as an area of speciality.

When it's up and running, initially at its Pangani branch within a year, it will have the latest technology to facilitate diagnosis and treatment of diseases of ears, nose, and throat, sinuses, larynx (voice box), and mouth.

“We are in making baby steps. We should have kicked off in the next one year.”

With time, Ms Chiira hopes the Grop will create a niche for itself. Just like hospitals such as Mater, Nairobi Women and Kikuyu have specialised in heart conditions, maternity, and eye condition respectively, Mr Chiira hopes in the near future Radiant Hospitals will be the to-go-to places for ENT services.

The big picture

Currently, some of the hospitals with dedicated ENT clinics include Nairobi Hospital, PCEA Kikuyu, Karen Hospital, and Gertrudes Children Hospital.

“There is no hospital that has taken a really keen interest on this. If a deaf person visits a clinic for general conditions, they have to come with a friend or family member who will have to translate to the doctors. We need direct communications.”

The plans to set up the ENT unit follow paused expansion to Meru, Narok, Nyeri and Kisumu due to tough business environment worsened by the pandemic.

“The big picture was to go to every county. But we have pushed these plans to the future because the business environment has been tough. Local manufactures and drug suppliers have already alerted on changes of prices on all products by five percent,” Ms Chiira adds.

The pandemic led to a pile-up of unpaid debts including owed millions from private insurance companies and the National Health Insurance Fund.

“We are having it difficult trying to survive because we need to pay our people and pharma suppliers. Right now we are working on a redundancy list of about 20. The numbers [business performance] have not come back.”

Cut wastage

She, however, remains optimistic.

Meanwhile, she tightened her oversight to cut wastage and ensure that every shilling counts.

“There is nothing that is bought here that I don’t know. You have to have that knowledge and ask questions because we are dealing with finances.”

She says owning two of the building that house the branches still has helped alleviate financial woes, even though she still had to renegotiate with banks for loan repayments.

The hospital pays rent for three branches of the seven amounting to Sh2.5 million per month.

The family-owned hospital runs seven branches – Pangani, Kasarani Sportsview, Kasarani Seasons, Umoja, Kiambu, Valley Road and Daystar University in Athi River with 200 permanent staff, 135 temporary staff and 50 visiting doctors, with 372 beds and 10 theatres.

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