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Kasozi: How I built a Shs 5bn hospital

It is not every day that you find a husband and his wife sharing an office.

But Prof Henry Kasozi, the founder of Kampala Diagnostic and Imaging Centre (Kadic) hospital, shares the same table with wife Sayuni Kasozi, 70. Her chair is just inches away from Kasozi’s. They have the same bookshelf, where they keep their files. She is the in-charge of marketing and customer care; he the medical director for the hospital.

“We started this hospital as a retirement project,” said Kasozi, who celebrated 50 years of marriage in 2012.

“She [the wife] makes daily reports and I look at them in the evening,” Kasozi, 76, tells me.  He said that even when they wake up every day to go to the office, they know they are in retirement.

“When I saw I was due to retire in a few years’ time, I wondered what I was going to do,” said Kasozi, who lectured at Makerere for close to 25 years.

He was a high-flying academic of radiology at Makerere University from 1974 to 1993. But the university then did not have any retirement packages for its staff.
It was then that Kasozi thought of a business he could do from the savings he had made. He started a shop which sold medical equipment. It didn’t work out, he said.

“I could not even get the money for rent. I just closed it,” he said. Then he saw a gap in the health sector. And since he was a trained medical practitioner, he straightaway went for it.

And Kadic was born in 1991. The hospital was started with the Shs 46m that Kasozi and his wife had saved. He also worked at Mulago hospital. Kadic had just four beds, four nurses and one doctor. They had a friend called Dr Samuel Banyikidde, who lived in the United States at the time. He sent them second-hand x-ray equipment, which they used at the time.

In just three years, the number of people who needed medical services had increased beyond the hospital’s capacity.

“That was when we realised we needed our own home,” he said.

They acquired half an acre at Bukoto, which is the current main home of the hospital. Kasozi, a father of seven children, said if any business was to succeed, entrepreneurs must avoid individualism.

“It’s a source of failure,” he said.

He said he engaged his friends and some of his children to buy land and build the first floor of the hospital in Bukoto in 2000. As they worked at Nakulabye, he said, most of what they saved was sent to Bukoto for construction.  Today, the Bukoto structure is not yet complete but the first two floors are already being used. It has 30 beds and it can handle patients who want self-contained rooms and the general ones.

He hopes to complete it in the next two years.

“I think my wife and I, we were lucky that we had already brought up our family and we could spend as much as possible of our savings on the project,” he said.
“We did not borrow any money. We started from what we had.”

Growth

Kadic has grown tremendously from handling less than 20 patients a month in 1991 to more than 4,000 patients today. It has 130 medical workers, including surgeons, gynaecologists, physicians and dentists. The hospital also has four ambulances working 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It has three branches around Kampala.  But they also have affiliate clinics in different districts.

The hospital has also spread into health insurance, serving both individuals and companies. Kasozi said when they had made some money, some banks approached them to offer credit. That’s where they got more money for expansion. He estimates the hospital to be worth Shs 5bn.

Kasozi said he had not done anything special to see this happen other than “perseverance and being focused.”   But it’s not all about love in the office. Particularly, Kasozi constantly moves around the hospital to inspect whether everything is going on well.

“I thank God. He has made it possible.”


The hospital now has a special emergency room, an intensive care unit.  Kasozi said they were the fourth hospital to have an ultrasound scan in the country.  Kadic also has an air rescue service, although it is quite expensive. Kasozi spoke of a patient who was stuck in Nakapiripirit and they had to air rescue her at a cost of Shs 23m.

It has not been a smooth ride all through.  Sometimes, Kasozi said, they have had financial hurdles. He said, as directors, they have gone some months without pay. He said they made sure they paid salaries for their employees to keep them motivated.

“We have to look for more than Shs 100m every month to pay salaries.”

He said they had not received so much support from government, although that has not stopped them from thriving on. The public has often criticized such private hospitals as Kadic that their services are priced too high, beyond what most Ugandans can afford.  But Kasozi disagrees.

He says the cost of running a hospital is enormous. But again, he says if you compare what Kadic charges against the competitors’, prices are cheaper.

“Of course we can’t compare ourselves with the cheapest clinics, but also you need to look at the services we offer,” Kasozi said.

He advised entrepreneurs that business is not all about how much money you earn, but how satisfactory it is to you.

amwesigwa@observer.ug

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