The Flying Doctors Nigeria is an air ambulance service based in Lagos, Nigeria. Founded by Dr. Ola Orekunrin, the service is the first of its kind in West Africa. The company was founded to serve a need for immediate air transport for those injured or in desperate need of medical attention. According to Orekunrin, for many in Nigeria, medical help was next to impossible to find because the two or three good hospitals were two to four day journeys away. For a nation that has a huge oil and gas industry, the fact that there was no system for transporting to hospitals quickly seemed to be a glaring error in heath care to Orekunrin.
Dr. Orekunrin herself was impacted by the lack of transportation for the sick or injured. A few years ago, while Orekunrin was studying in the U.K., her 12-year-old sister fell gravely ill while on vacation in Nigeria. She needed medical care urgently but the local hospital could not care for the condition she had. The family was shocked to find out that there was no available air ambulance service in all of West Africa to move the girl to a better healthcare center and that they would have to call for a flight all the way from South Africa. By the time the flight was even available, the little girl had already passed away.
For Orekunrin, the sudden loss of her younger sister was both shocking and life changing. A doctor by the age of 21, Orekunrin had a promising career in the U.K. as one the youngest, most talented, and ambitious young leaders. Yet she left it all to move to Nigeria to address healthcare in the African nation. So Orekunrin went to study evacuation models and air ambulance in developing countries. In 2010, she launched her own company Flying Doctors Nigeria.
Flying Doctors Nigeria is currently in its third year and continues to swiftly transport people who need urgent medical care. It has since airlifted and provided expert health care en route to 500 patients. The company uses a fleet of planes and helicopters in its work. The service has carried all sorts of injured or ill from victims of traffic accidents to gunshot wounds. This transportation is critical to patients as roads in parts of West Africa are often poorly maintained and badly lit at night, making transportation in cars both inefficient and difficult.
There are still many hurdles that this young company must face. First and foremost, aviation business is highly expensive in Nigeria. Orekunrin has stated “keeping costs down is always a challenge.” Furthermore red tape is always tangling up businesses. Yet with a growing financial services sector and a growing petroleum and gas industry could fuel demand for companies like Flying Doctors Nigeria. For Orekunrin and those who work with her, their labor is difficult, but the rewards for their hard work and dedication are life saving.
– Grace Zhao