Closing the project meeting

Create Better Access to Healthcare in South Africa, update May 2009.

Today (Friday 29th May) we had our official ‘Closing the Project Meeting’ with our Project Board. Now the project results have been handed over to Lu (as the Project Executive). There are still a couple of things that need to be done over the next days and weeks, but we feel confident that everything is in place to get the “Masana Diabetes Care Support Centre” running. We have completed the project. Of course we will stay available to help where we can during the actual start-up phase after our graduation in June.It comes as no surprise maybe if you are doing a project like this so far away in South Africa, but up until the end of the project it has from time to time been a hustle to touch base with our partners in South Africa. As everything has been handled by phone and by mail, we fully depend on these we would call basic functionalities. We were communicating with Lu through a certain email address. A strange email address name we thought. Response from her was sometimes only after a week or two and also a bit strange formulated as well. After a while it stopped completely. Only then we found out that we had been using the email address of Lu’s brother in law. He had been answering our emails, dictated by Lu. In the meantime her brother in law got a new job, with an email address, so we picked up the same pace again. Unfortunately not very fast and efficient.In two weeks from now we will have our graduation ceremony and we will have to present our project. We very much look forward to that and shortly before we will publish our very last weblog for the website of Ambition Academy.

Nicole Bosters and Gert van Westing

Time goes fast

Create Better Access to Healthcare in South Africa, update April 2009

Time goes by fast. In more or less one month time, we, as a project team, will have to present and document our project achievements for the ‘jury’ of Ambition Academy. It is a crucial requirement that the Project has been finished, which it is not, or the Project should be in such a stage that it can be handed over. This handing over is where we will focus on, the next couple of weeks. We should it right, because we do want Lu’s “Masana Diabetes Care Support Centre” to be a real success.We thought we were getting close to get Lu up and running, but last week Shireen came with what she called “a big red herring”. Actually we had never heard of that expression, but we did not need much imagination to understand that this could mean a major issue. The problem seems to be that it is illegal to work with patients in South Africa when you are not registered as a nurse. Lu is not a registered nurse!  A lot of discussion and ideas are exchanged. How should this law be interpreted? Is it a law, or just a organisation that wants everyone in the business registered? Is there a solution, or should we play a ‘trick’, or can we afford to just ignore it? We trust that we will find a way around this, but it does create some extra stress, close for the finish...

Nicole Bosters and Gert van Westing

A place to rent

Create Better Access to Healthcare in South Africa - March 2009

One of the things our project colleagues in South Africa have been busy with the last couple of weeks is getting a place to rent for our Centre. It should be close to a major hospital or maybe close to a big shopping mall, to be able to get in contact with a lot of people. Another thing is that it should preferably also be close to public transport and not to forget: not too expensive. However, so far no result. Now the idea is born to come up with a sort of ‘Diabetes on tour’ concept. No fix rent costs and Lu should travel around various locations in hospitals or community buildings to meet people that want to be tested and get advice. It sounds like a good solution. It will have impact on our business case and make it easier from a financial point of view.
Still, the progress on the project is not as planned and hoped. This is also because of some bad fortune our South African colleagues had during the last couple of months. Shireen got a serious car accident and was in hospital for more than one week and had to stay in bed for another two weeks. Lately Lu was also in hospital for a week and she is still morning about the sudden death of her father in the beginning of February.
Another remarkable occurrence is that we completely lost contact with Tjipo. No one has been able to contact her for the last two months. As a Project Board member she really could help us now with her marketing expertise and great network and connection with media to promote the idea of our Centre.

Nicole Bosters and Gert van Westing

Inspiring teleconference

Create Better Access to Healthcare in South Africa - update February 2009

Last Friday we had again a very inspiring teleconference meeting with our Project Board in South Africa. During this meeting we discussed the next stage in our Project, where we need to organise a number of practical issues around Sales and Marketing, Finance, HR and Facilities. Until now we as Project Managers had the feeling that we still needed to sell our initial idea to our Project Board. They were enthusiastic every time we spoke to them, but they were not taking that many initiatives themselves. In last Friday’s meeting it was very good to sense that they were really taking ownership of the project by wanting to work on certain tasks themselves. Another important sign was the commitment to the idea of the Project by one of the Project Board members, Shireen. She said that she really felt that this Project was not just another Project, but something really special that will make a difference to people’s lives. She asked us what will happen to the Project after we will graduate in June. She was very happy to hear that both our commitment will continue as we also feel very strongly we have a very special Project.

Nicole Bosters and Gert van Westing

Facing different worlds

While we were ice skating on the frozen canals and lakes of Holland, it was humid and hot in Johannesburg. Our South African partners on the project were fighting against the heat. It was summer holiday season in South Africa and business was slow.
This contrast is a good image of the sometimes completely different worlds we are living in when it comes to managing our project. We with our Dutch background and culture are more direct, want to have things done and confirmed and we have a little difficulty with living with uncertainties. It seems like this is totally not the way it works for our South African partners. They are always almost extremely enthusiastic when we talk with them during our telephone meetings. They also confirm when we ask them to do certain things within a certain timeframe as we then agreed on. However, most of the time we have to remind them again and again. It sometimes feels that you have to chase them on every little thing we agreed on.
This is one of the learning aspects of the Real Life Business Project at Ambition Academy. We have to manage the project on a distance. Not only the physical distance, but also the distance in culture, attitude and business values is big. We have not even yet met the people we are working with. Maybe our project is also a little different, as it was already almost a project itself to find a Project Executive for our idea of building a Medical Supply Centre for Diabetes. We have to be persistent but careful at the same time. We absolutely do not want to chase our South African partners away with our purposiveness, but we absolutely do want to achieve our goals. It is important to keep on communicating, making sure we all share the same vision and objectives.

Nicole Bosters and Gert van Westing

Where should I start

Create Better Access to Healthcare in South Africa – update December 2008

It is sometimes very strange with a Project. Times nothing happens and sometimes so many things happen that make you think: “where should I start?”.
Lately we spoke to Shireen Hanoon, the Business Unit Manager of Abbott Laboratories, the Supplier of Diabetes devices in South Africa who agreed on becoming our Senior Supplier in the Project Board, as a company. She was also very helpful in providing a lot of other information about costs. We now are able to fill in our Business Plan more detailed. She has a MBA graduate working for her, whom she is going to dedicate partially to our Project, once this person returns in January from his holiday.
Mrs Hanoon introduced the name of Lu Mkhontwani to us, a woman who has Diabetes herself and might be interested in our project. We have already spoken with Lu Mkhontwani and her Marketing Advisor Tjipo Mothobi. They agreed on participating in our project and becoming members of our Project Board, LU will be the Executive. They emphasised that it would be best to start with the children, because of the side effects of Diabetes: children get blind, have amputations of legs and end up in wheelchairs. Focussing on children is also from a Marketing perspective more effective. Children bring their parents who might also be suffering from Diabetes and become more aware of Diabetes themselves. This snowball effect will bring us eventually to the elderly.
We spoke with the Mail Order Company in The Netherlands and learned that we had to focus also within the clinical picture of Diabetes. We now focus on the Pre-Diabetes Phase and the Type II Diabetes patients. Type I Diabetes patients need Insulin and that needs to be described by a doctor, which makes the purpose of the MDSC at the start too complicated. Their advise was to keep it foremost simple. Selling devices is not the first priority, but selling tests is. A device costs approximately € 30,- and that is too expensive. They showed us also the devices, which are used in The Netherlands. We can contact them any time, when we need some additional information.
We have done some more research on Diabetes, the Medical Health System and the PDI’s in South Africa. Now it is time to categorise all this information and see how to use it in a proper way. The emphasis lies also in education about the decease and measure the blood sugar.
The Representative of our “Interest Group” close to Johannesburg is still not contacting us, and we are afraid he has lost interest in our project. We still hope that the Interest Group might want to work with Lu Mkhontwani on our project, once the Representative knows we have an expert on Diabetes on board.
Gert van Westing and Nicole Bosters

Create better Acces to Healthcare in South Africa

The basic idea of Gert van Westing and Nicole Bosters is to contribute to the access of medical devices in South Africa for people/patients who are in a less favourable situation by helping to set up a Medical Devices Supply Centre (MDSC).
Although we are making progress, it is still not progressing enough in our opinion. To come to know about the people we are doing business with, we kindly asked them to introduce themselves a bit more to us. Before they do that, they need to know more about the priority of their government on diabetes. Also they want to have more information from our side on the products: the prices need to be on a level that the patients can pay for it. When this is all arranged for, they will elect
a person from their group to be our Executive. They still emphasise that is a good project to participate in. On the other hand it gives us time to do research on the health system, the products and the actual need of a MDSC for diabetes in South Africa. And, of course, to write a detailed business plan.
From the side of suppliers, we make more progress. The largest mail order company of The Netherlands is giving us a presentation on Devices for Diabetes and are very much interested in our project. We are excited that they will help us on our project. As we wrote down in our former report we have a good connection to people in the industry in South Africa. The person of one organisation is very helpful and provides us with valuable information. Maybe we have to go to South Africa already in January 2009.

Set up a Medical Devices Supply Centre

In our Project, to set up a Medical Devices Supply Centre (MDSC) in South Africa, we have made another step. We decided to specialise to one decease only: Diabetes Mellitus (Diabetes).
At this very moment we are negotiating with a group of people close to Johannesburg. They recognise that Diabetes is a huge problem in their environment. By starting a self supporting MDSC, and calling the attention to the disease in various programmes and instruction or training how to handle the medical devices, we want to improve the quality of life of patients with Diabetes.
We will concentrate on basic materials, relatively low priced, connected with nursing service and advice & education. Out of scope are the additional checks for Diabetes. For instance the eye doctor and the pod therapist care will not be in the project. The MDSC will only give the basic care for Diabetes. Also the medication, like in insulin is not part of the centre.
The next step to be taken is to get a “yes” from the people in Johannesburg. Also we need to know how the products work and what is on the market. Through an association in medical devices in South Africa, we are now in contact with a few suppliers, who offer us their help. These offers need further investigation. When we have this information in line, we want to plan our sales and marketing strategy.

Gert van Westing en Nicole Bosters