Nigeria: Time To Stop Medical Tourism | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigeria: Time To Stop Medical Tourism

Posted: Jun 8, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Recently, while commissioning a state-of-the–art hospital in Uyo, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpabio reportedly said that Nigeria loses about N18 billion annually to Medical Tourism. This revelation is worrisome and once more highlights the need for the government to address the issue of inadequate health care services in the country. 

Available statistics show that an estimated 5,000 Nigerians travel abroad monthly for medical treatment. Only in 2014, the Nigerian High Commissioner to India, Oyebola Kuku, reportedly decried the situation where 20,000 out of 25,000 Nigerians granted visas to that country in 2011 alone, were for medical trips.

The truth of the matter is that most of our hospitals and healthcare centres, especially major teaching hospitals across the country are losing their life-saving values and so do not seem to be anything close to international standards. Poor funding, lack of requisite equipment and the quality of doctors produced by our medical schools are some of the factors bedeviling our health care system. This is why most doctors from Nigeria are unable to practice when they go abroad, until they are made to sit for several certification examinations and trainings.

The unfortunate aspect of these medical trips is that they are embarked upon by mostly government officials and other public servants, who do not seem to see the urgency need to develop of the country’s health institutions and personnel many of which have become worse than mere consulting clinics” that were compared to once upon a time. The fact that they even use public funds for these medical ventures, without recourse to the economic realities in the country is unacceptable. This is obviously an abuse of their privilege and public treasury.

Sadly enough and ironically too, some of the ailments for which some of them travel abroad could be better handled here in Nigeria. Changing this ugly situation requires a radical touch. In 2014 budget, for instance, about 82 per cent of the health budget was on recurrent expenditure.  We believe that this should be reviewed to accommodate more infrastructural development, particularly in the area of equipping our health institutions to international standards. It is germane that training and retraining of our health care personnel be given a priority.

Again, the new government in Nigeria must understand that the only way to halt the abuses associated with seeking medical treatment abroad by public servants, is to come up with a legislation that would forbid them from using public funds for these trips, many of which are unnecessary. But beyond this, with a first class health system and the right health policies in the country, the exodus for medical treatment abroad would certainly reduce and subsequently open up the health sector for more investments.