THE ROLE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS IN THE MARKETING OF HOSPITAL SERVICES (A CASE STUDY OF PARK-LANE HOSPITAL ENUGU)
Before now, hike in 1960’s public relation practice was not popular, only a few Nigerians knew what public relation was, until the recent past when public relations practice and public relations programmes and activities were considered as the powerful tools for co-ordinating human and business image. The knowledge of public relation diffused fast in Nigerian society because of the economic, social and political programmes of activities were in a state of constant change.
Public relations as marketing function is an extension of the societal marketing concept which focuses every marketing decision on customer satisfaction, and welfare of the firm’s larger public. A relationship between a firm and its numerous public such as customers, employees, and the community at large, which is designed to enhance the image of the organization in the minds of its various public (Engle, Warshow and Kinnear P. 568).
Public relation can improve the image and reputation of a company which according to the institute of public relation as “the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain metal understanding between an organization and it’s public”. As a managerial function according to Philip Kotler (1997: P. 6.71) is involvement of a variety of programme designed to promoter and protect a company’s image or it’s individual product. “According to Canfield (1992: pg. 58) Public relation” is the management function which evaluates public attitude, identities, the policies and procedures of an individual or organization with public interest and executes program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance”.
Kam Affong equally defined public relation as “the process of assessing consumer wants, establishing communication and fostering good will so that consumer wants can be profitably statisfied from the foregoing the hospital management should be capable of assessing and analyzing the wants of their customers, information pass from the hospital to the customer, from customer back, thereby fostering the mutual understanding of both parties. Whether hospitals make use of effective public relations is yet a problem to be unrevealed.
A present women once came to deliver in one of our hospitals and asked the nurse on duty to take her to labour room because she is weak. The nurse replied in a harsh and hostile tore “if you like crawl to the labour room, after all she did not impregnant her”. Some doctors, nurses and staff are sometimes non chavant to patients welfare, harsh to patient, some hospital have recorded the greatest number of death, and some charging exorbitant price, some unqualified personnel, and some demand payment first before treatment. These and many other reasons may be accountable for the preference of one hospital over another. So, hospital management should be conscious of every thing they do because they depend on the public for their profit and should satisfy their consumers. There fore, the management should understand that public relation as a marketing promotional function if practice well will help them to guard their image jealously and maintain favourable relationship between the hospital and its public, there by creating good will for themselves.
“Public relations is too important in a firms total communication and promotional effort to permit it to be either negative and damaging or indifferent to the point where the public know little or what the company is doing, what it stands for and what it is trying to achieve”. (Rom Markins (1979:521) so the hospital should blow it’s trumpet very well “effectively”, and if poorly managed, will find it fruitless to get it’s good will no matter the promotional strategies it adopts. Once the consumer of their services finds out the doctor and nurses do not cater for their interest, they will give up their patronage to another hospital.
There should be constant communication among the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, drug suppliers, patients and the public at large so that, the hospitals good deeds will get to the public and take the credit. The hospitals therefore need not advertise for patients or customers but there area other effective ways of making patients to come to your hospital and that is through public relations.
The historical background of the park lane hospital: The hospital was established in 1930 as a nursing home for colonial masters and in 1952 blacks were allowed to be treated, because it was ment for the whites. In April 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War. It was converted into a general hospital and its expansion started in may at the same year and between 1978 and 1982, the surgical word, eye clinic, pediatric ward, plant house, mortuary and four new blocks of consulting rooms in the OPD were constructed and commissioned.
In 1985, a new phase of development with a 52 bed surgical ward, ante-natal clinic and a maternity ward. Also in August 1999, a school of nursing had been opened to train nurses for Enugu and other states, 5 bungalows were completed in preparation for the accreditation of the hospital for training of house officers. In September 2001, the premises was tarred, and the number of doctors had to be increased to 27 with about seven consultants in all aspect of medicine and in 2003 another building was elevated and yet to be completed and commissioned by the state government.
The hospital is headed by a medical/chief executive under him are the following units:
1. The medical doctors
2. The laboratory unit
3. The pharmacy unit
4. The medical records unit
5. The nursing division
6. The x-ray unit
7. The administration and other units
A new patient first goes to the receptionist of the hospital and obtained a card at prescribed fee with the card he/she goes to doctor on duty. After consultations, he/she goes to the dispensary of the pharmacy to buy the prescribed drugs.
Public relation is in the service industry, and medical doctors, nurses and other paramedical staff which are been produced from our universities may or may not have taken some course in marketing, business administration, psychology and human relations to prepare them at least to identify consumers needs understanding them as hence satisfy them effectively. In this regard, blame for poor public relations practice have been placed on the inadequate training given to these doctors, nurses and other medical staffs.
It is also evident, that the consumers (patients) are becoming more and more knowledgeable, patients have often been complaining of inadequate attention, poor quality of medical services, unreasonable hospital charges and above all, sheer exploitation. Now patients (consumers) now resort to self medication, using of Natural herbs and even sworn never to approach any medical doctor or nurse for help. Our general hospital, has been accused of hoarding drugs and selling them in an open market for a higher profit margin. As a result of this, high incidence of death has been recorded in our hospital, increasing the country’s death rate. This situation has attracted the attention of the researcher who is bent among other things on finding out better ways of satisfying these consumer (patient) and hence improving the hospitals image through public relation.
The most outstanding hope of this study is that it’s findings will be of immense benefit to medical practitioners, students and others who may not have has a course in public relations. The findings are further anticipated to help the park lane general hospital and other practicing managers especially those who are in the hospitals and similar field in seeing the customer as the king. Also, the study will be of tremendous help to the general public, and to organizations in maintaining metal relationship between them and their numerous customers.
The study will also be of immense help to the government in caring out or executing any programme that will effect its people.
Also, the study will be of benefits to the customers in maintaining good relationship with the organizations that renders services to them. This will enhance understanding between the organization (hospital) and it’s customers.
Moreover, readers of this research will also benefit from it. This will help enlightening them on the roles and importance of public relation in our society.
The study will also be of immense value to the researcher because it will make her to know more of what she did not know before conducting the research work. The researcher will also use this work as a reference whenever the need arises.