Ola Orekunrin Brown – Nigeria’s Top 10 Covid-19 Innovators

Founder, Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group

Dr. Ola Orekunrin Brown, founder, Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group, is a medical doctor, helicopter pilot and healthcare entrepreneur. She has positioned her one-of-a-kind organisation to fight coronavirus in remote communities across the country. The flying doctor keeps flying at a time when most flights are grounded and the whole world is at war with an invisible but formidable enemy, COVID-19.

She has stationed herself on the frontline, fortified with the weapons of resolve and technology, attacking and defending — to resist the spread of the virus. She heads a company that dominates the air ambulance industry in Africa, expanding its offerings within the healthcare value chain to raise it capacity to save lives.

The company’s contributions in addressing the multiple challenges in Nigeria’s healthcare sector dovetailed into several initiatives and activities designed to help fight COVID-19. Over the past few months, it has developed and implemented unique initiatives in collaboration with state governments and organisations to help curb the spread of the virus in Nigeria.

The initiatives include the supply of medical consumables to organisations, professional associations, individuals and state governments in the effort to win the battle against the pandemic.

The company maintains a robust inventory of medical equipment and relationships with multiple medical equipment manufacturers and suppliers across the globe. It has opened its doors to let the nation benefit from this capacity through prompt supply of critical care equipment and facilities that are currently in limited supply globally.

Brown was part of the Steering Committee of the Nigerian Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) that set up an 80-bed capacity COVID-19 intensive care unit at Eti-Osa – one of the hardest-hit areas in Lagos State, to help manage critical cases. This is a quick response in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, which Brown did leveraging her membership of YPO – a global community of chief executives with approximately 28,000 members in more than 130 countries.

 “As part of the company’s contribution to response preparedness for the outbreak of the virus in Nigeria, it assisted in helping ensure the prompt supply of critical care equipment to the 80-bed capacity COVID-19 ICU center set up by the Young Presidents Organization – a global community of chief executives with approximately 28,000 members in more than 130 countries to manage critical patients within the state.

At the time, Eti-Osa was one of the hardest-hit areas in Lagos state.

Some of the essential supplies include CPAP machines, oxygen cylinders, consumables, infusion pumps and multi propaq monitors. “

The company’s package of support includes the development and launching of sample collection booths and a molecular lab with the capacity of processing 100 samples daily.  Brown also designed what is believed to be the first mobile testing booth in Nigeria, an innovation that was embraced by the Ogun State Government.

The gesture is in response to the critical need to ramp up Nigeria’s testing capacity. It offers a massive testing capacity of 6000 sample kits, reckoned to be one of the largest facilities any private sector organisation in Nigeria could put in place for the virus.

The testing booth has a design attribute that eliminates physical contact with patients when collecting samples. This minimises the risk of medical personnel and health workers at the frontlines of the Covid-19 battle contracting the virus.  

The company offers to deploy the facility to as many states as are willing to accept, thereby helping them to develop capacity to fight the pandemic. Its testing booths are springing up across the country from Ogun to Kano and to Zamfara State – where the largest Covid-19 booth-based testing center in Nigeria is situated.  Currently, their booths have been deployed and are operational across 7 different states in Nigeria.

The manufacture of the sample collection/testing booth is an innovation that came out of desperation. It is a solution to the problem of the high cost and unavailability of personal protective equipment that severely limits testing capacity. It is modeled after the success in South Korea where it provided increased testing capability in a short period of time.

Installation of mobile testing booths is a great milestone attained in dealing with a major bottleneck in the battle against Covid-19. Each booth is a workstation for many people from different professions working to build capacity and fight the COVID-19 war.

“We have been constructing them for our work outside Lagos where we know that drive-through solutions wouldn’t work optimally because many don’t drive. Ramping up testing facilities and access is a major objective for us”, Brown said.

Flying Doctors is holding itself out to a great commitment: “we would continue to work both in isolation and collaboration with organisations, individuals, groups, associations and/or corporates to further ensure we build the required capacity to enable us curb the spread of this deadly virus across the country”, it said in its website.

The company is also leveraging on its international partnership network of equipment manufacturers to maintain supplies of all medical items required in fighting COVID-19 and beyond.

Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group boasts a portfolio of investments in pharmaceutical retail, health tech, diagnostics, medical equipment supply and construction. The company’s air ambulance team has come handy to the nation to facilitate emergency local and international transportations of COVID-19 positive and COVID-19 negative patients.

It is a healthcare and wellness investment company with specialized expertise in air ambulances, medevac, medico-logistics services, remote site medical solution services, medical infrastructural development and medical training which it offers through her operational arm, Flying Doctors Nigeria.

Founded in 2009, Flying Doctors Nigeria is West Africa’s leading air ambulance service that maintains one of the largest network of ground and air ambulances in West Africa.  At Flying Doctors Nigeria, Brown has built a team of life savers – who move patients quickly and safely to hospitals while providing emergency medical care en-route.

The company is filling a major gap in healthcare infrastructure in the country and creating access to advanced medical services to people in high-risk environment. Brown has brought into the healthcare space in Nigeria the critical speed by airlifting patients – injured workers and critically ill people from remote areas to hospitals. The patients include victims of road traffic accidents, terrorist operations, gunshots and other health emergencies, including trauma.

Her goal is to continually improve access to healthcare in Africa through the firm’s strategic investment in all facets of the healthcare value chain. Beyond contributing immensely to the fight against COVID-19, she seeks to establish her brand in the forefront of tackling the healthcare problems across the continent.