IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 67

04 Globalisation and Growth | Learning from Experience in Nigeria
Major Milestone
Learning from Experience
in Nigeria, with SMI
Service Medical International (SMI) was a Paris based
company providing medical staffing, consulting,
training services and medical equipment. In the
1990s, as we were planning to develop a presence in
Africa, SMI was already there. It ran two clinics in Port
Harcourt, Nigeria: One for Schlumberger – the
world’s largest oilfield services company – and a
shared clinic for employees of other oil and gas
In 1994 Arnaud and Laurent Sabourin began
discussions with the founder of SMI, Dr Jean Michel
Lichtenberger. With its presence in Nigeria, and a
number of clinics elsewhere in Africa, we saw SMI as
the stepping stone to both the African and European
markets. We acquired the medical services function
of SMI.
A key member of the SMI team was Dr Laurent
Arnulf, its Medical Director. Laurent had worked for
SMI since 1991 and had a great deal of international
experience. In Nigeria he was the site doctor for
Schlumberger having set up the shared clinic in Port
Harcourt in 1992, with SMI’s Nigerian medical partner
Dr Bob Yellowe. As well as being a “fantastic”
Orthopaedic Consultant, Bob was an Olympic
athlete. As Laurent describes, “We shared the same
vision and became close friends. Our friendship and
partnership remains extremely strong today.”
Having seen the need for a clinic to service the oil
and gas contractor community, Laurent had
organised funding from different companies based in
Port Harcourt, then dealt with all the logistics, and
overseen the building, equipping, and running of the
clinic. At the start the clinic was shared by eight oil
and gas contractor clients. It was very successful and
within a couple of years the eight clients became 20,
then more than 50. Laurent’s combination of medical
Left: Lagos clinic, Nigeria, 2013.
and business skills, and the experience of setting up
a very successful clinic in this challenging African
environment, was to become useful for our company.
Arnaud and Pascal saw the Nigerian business as
“a jewel to preserve,” but they also saw the need to
align it to international standards. Laurent worked
closely with Laurent Sabourin to make sure the
operation was correctly structured. In any country
this involves organising the same five elements: Local
medical partnerships, a local legal entity, medical
facility licensing by the Ministry of Health, doctor
registration with the country’s Medical Board, and
drug importation and distribution licensing.
To respond to the growing success of this first shared
Port Harcourt clinic, a brand new clinic was opened
in the Aba Road camp. This clinic still provides state
of the art primary and emergency services; additional
annexes have been set up in Amadi and Onne, also in
the Port Harcourt area. Meanwhile, the Warri Clinic,
which opened in 1994, has been redesigned and the
Lagos Clinic opened in 2004.
The experience in Nigeria was to be replicated many
times in new territories, and as we have so often
found, working with local partners was key to our
success. These excellent and long standing partners
include Dr Ernest Ideh, in Warri and Dr Alan Fatay
Williams based in Lagos.
Dr Arnulf: “Our local partners have an excellent
understanding of the environment, they understand
the law and any local constraints or specific
requirements relating to the delivery of our services
in their country; they are our best ambassadors.
There is no hierarchy imposed on them, it is a true
and key partnership.”


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