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Dr Sebbaale: Hands off but eyes on

By Agnes Asiimwe

Dr. Sebbaale Kato is the CEO of Case Medical Centre in Kampala and a senior lecturer in the department of surgery of Makerere University, a pioneer laparoscopic surgeon and gastroenterologist. Kato is also chairman of Uganda Cricket Association, a golfer, and a born-again Christian.

What’s your day like?

I work at home in the early morning to avoid the heavy traffic. By 10.30 a.m. I go around the hospital and see all the in-patients. At noon I do paperwork and emails and take a swim in the afternoon before visiting out-patients. Three days every week I do surgery in the theatre and I could work till about 9 p.m. On Wednesdays and Fridays I break off early and go for exercises.

What challenges do you face?

Medicine changes very fast. It is a very costly practise. It’s a 24-hour service. I have 20 people with master’s degrees and those are specialists. It’s a big and expensive workforce and you cannot afford to cut corners ” a paediatrician must be a professional paediatrician. Diagnostic tools are very costly, yet the client out there has limitations. A CT Scanner costs US$1 million dollars and it requires a specialist to run it. From a business point of view, this scanner has to make returns but medicine wasn’t meant for only the rich but for all human beings. You want the service to be crisp, cutting edge but unfortunately the economy isn’t moving at the same pace.

Dr. Sebbaale’ s tips to successful business management?

Never leave tasks undone. Anything I can do I must do before I go to sleep. It makes you a hands-on manager.

Manage your time.

Delegate: Keep hands off but eyes on.

Select and work with a good team.

Go for attitude than [academic] papers. Of course a surgeon must be qualified to practise as a surgeon but we go for people with the correct attitude, somebody must show concern for what he does other than clocking in and clocking out.

I took a full year of study at Uganda Management Institute (UMI) to learn management and I hold a graduate diploma in management.

Don’t close the door. It creates boundaries.

How are you resolving these challenges?

The diagnostic tools are costly but when you get all the facilities under one roof ” imaging, theatre, laboratory you cut down costs.

There was a time when we would send patients to Nairobi, Kenya for check-up and return with results. We now have these facilities here and it’s a big advantage for our community.

Fortunately the government is planning on introducing the health insurance scheme which would mean that people will pay in advance. Diseases never look into your pocket before they strike.

Thankfully the middle class is expanding, which means the number of those who can afford to pay for quality medical care is growing.

We don’t forget our poor patients. Case treats about 2,000 HIV infected children from the Watoto Child Care Ministry for free. I have a heart for children and I know that these are orphans.

What’s your opinion of Ugandan workers?

I have only four foreign employees. I believe so much in Uganda. Our challenge is that our people are not results-oriented but with training they tend to get out of the cocoon. Employers should not look to foreigners because we have to develop what we have. I teach in medical school and after their studies most of the doctors go to the UK, to South Africa and other countries and they are performing brilliantly.

What are your tips to successful business management?

Business is about the vision that you have for the business. If you set up a health facility to make money, you won’t go far. You need a vision which should never be diluted. Start small. Case started as a high street clinic 15 years ago. We moved to Buganda Road in 2002 where we expanded to eight beds and two haemodialysis machines (kidney machines) Case is now a fully fledged 100 bed hospital, 20 of which are specialist beds. We have an Intensive Care Unit, two theatres, incubators, a fully equipped laboratory and imaging services.

 

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