– As JNC International boss canvasses harmony in health sector
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the HealthPlus Group, Pharm. Bukky George, has announced that the company, rated as the fastest growing pharmacy chain in West Africa, would add 48 new branches to the existing ones in 2015.
Speaking at the 7th annual thanksgiving dinner and awards ceremony which coincided with the company’s 15th anniversary, held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos on 15 December, 2014, the pharmacist remarked that she was happy that HealthPlus, Nigeria’s first integrative pharmacy store, had become the pride of Pharmacy.
“15 years is a major milestone for us,” Pharm. George recalled. “I still remember how we started from the 18 square-metre room in Ikeja, GRA, with three staff. We ensured that there was a pharmacist always on duty. We never paid lip service and, in 2011, we opened our first branch outside Lagos in Abuja. Today, with 40 branches nationwide, HealthPlus has become the pride of Pharmacy and the beauty industry.”
While crediting the success of the chain to her ‘people’ (the staff), the pharmacist said she was proud that HealthPlus was no longer about herself alone, adding that with the company’s current growth rate, past successes would seem insignificant in comparison with future prospects.
“We have a target to start 48 new branches next year . That is, 12 branches every quarter. It is going to be a challenge but it is achievable as we trust God for everything. It might also interest you to know that we have finally signed an agreement with International Financial Corporation (IFC),” she disclosed.
Lamenting the incessant conflicts besetting the health care sector, George said the time had come for health practitioners to stop fighting each other and work in the best interest of the patient.
She added: “On our part, we will continue to contribute our own quota. Just yesterday, we opened a new branch at Magboro along Lagos-Ibadan expressway. From next year, we will also target areas like Akowonjo, Tejuosho, Agege and several others.”
While delivering the keynote address for the occasion, Pharm. Clare Omatseye, founder and Managing Director of JNC International Nigeria Limited, disclosed that she almost screamed when she heard that HealthPlus was planning to open 48 additional branches in just one year.
“But knowing Bukky for who she is, a woman full of passion and vision, I believe she can achieve it,” she enthused.
The seasoned pharmacist with years of pharmaceutical, public health and medical device experience, recounted the sad event of an asthmatic young man who relapsed while driving along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
“All efforts made to get a quality patent medicine store, let alone a pharmacy, proved abortive. In the end, the young man died. Today I am happy somebody like Bukky George has taken care of that problem by opening a HealthPlus branch along the express,” she noted.
Omatseye also called on healthcare practitioners to put their differences aside and work in the collective interest of the patient. According to her, hospitals and doctors cannot make everything happen by themselves. What makes things happen is harmonisation, if the health sector is ever to break free from its vicious cycle.
“We cannot continue to do the same thing in the same way, day in, day out. We need to start creating new frontiers,” she said.
Also at the event were Pharm. Bolanle Adekoya, head of pharmacy department, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH); Pharm. Ike Onyechi, managing director of Alpha Pharmacy; Pharm. Lekan Asuni, managing director of GlaxoSmithKline; Pharm. Femi Soremekun, chairman of Biofem Pharmaceuticals; and Dr Lolu Ojo, former chairman of National Association of Industrial Pharmacists (NAIP).
Commenting on the thanksgiving dinner and award ceremony, Dr Lolu Ojo described it as laudable.
“Bukky is somebody one can describe as the best of the best. I think she has succeeded in bringing what we (pharmacists) dream about to reality,” he remarked.
On whether the HealthPlus boss could achieve the target of 48 new branches, the immediate past NAIP chairman was optimistic, citing Pharm. George past records.
“Although it is a very big and expansive ambition, she has the commitment to do it. Just as she vowed to increase HealthPlus Pharmacy from 17 to 40 branches in the past, this won’t be an exception. Don’t forget she just signed an agreement with the IFC,” he said.
Corroborating Dr Lolu Ojo’s view was Pharm. Chukwuemeka Obi, operations manager of PharmacyPlus Nigeria Limited, who said Bukky George had succeeded in revolutionising retail pharmacy in the country.
Obi disclosed that he knew the enterprising pharmacist way back when she left GSK and pitched tent with London’s popular pharmacy – John Bell and Croyden – to learn the ropes of managing a retail chain. He described her as a focussed pharmacist and go-getter.
Towards the end of the programme, some of the company’s staff were given awards and special recognition for their commitment over the years. They included Adebimpe Odesanya (2014 Outstanding Manager), Sandy Augustina (2014 Outstanding CasaBella Beauty Manager) and Sola Subair (Long Service Award).
HealthPlus was incorporated in 1996 four years after Pharm. Bukky George graduated from the School of Pharmacy, University of Lagos as the best student of the college. It officially started operations in May 1999 and CasaBella Beauty, a retail beauty business, was incorporated into the chain soon after.