1st August, 2011
At least 3,000 Nigerians travel each month for medical treatment in India, spending close to $200 million (N30 billion) yearly.
A report today by the International Medical Travel Journal attributed the figures to Nigeriaâ€™s former minister of health, Professor Babatunde Oshotimehin, who blamed the shambolic health care system and a very expensive local care.
According to Oshotimehin, thousands have died due to complications arising from far distance travel after life saving surgery. Serious medical conditions such as heart disease have led to many Nigerians going abroad for urgent surgery.
Many of these are not really fit to travel there and back by normal air. Nigeriaâ€™s healthcare system has degenerated to the extent that many patients no longer have confidence in the system.
The report however disclosed that Indian doctors do not have answers to all Nigerian health care problems, as about 1000 cases are mis-diagnosed yearly. These range from emergency or critical life saving operations to routine care. Few use medical evacuation services.
The new executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) ,Osotimehin said, â€œthe state of healthcare in Nigeria, has forced many patients to go abroad for all manner of treatment that could be confidently treated and handled in Nigeria. The country has to make concerted efforts to upgrade her health care facilities to the standard that would attract patronage from patients outside Nigeria, or stop Nigerians travelling overseas. Nigerian medical professionals are leaving the country for greener pastures due to lack of infrastructure.
â€œMost equipment in our hospitals are either broken down or obsolete. Where you see good ones, they are not in use because people that are supposed to use them are not properly trained. This clearly demonstrates why Nigerians will continue to seek medical care elsewhere unless something urgent is done to rebuild the nationâ€™s health system with a view to returning the patients confidence.
â€œBut this situation can also be seen as a big opportunity for Nigeria and Nigerians to take a lead at becoming a hub for medical tourism. This can be achieved through infrastructure development and improved competences of personnel by continuous training of doctors and other health workers.â€
Dr. Wale Alabi of Global Resources & Projects International (GRPI) has called on the Nigerian government to embrace private-public partnerships for infrastructure development in healthcare by investing and ensuring that the countryâ€™s health system is strongly built to cater for its citizens and also attract patients from the sub-region.
â€œIf proper attention is not given towards resuscitating the collapsing health sector, Nigeria may end up losing the sector to foreigners. Improving healthcare services in our health institutions will discourage the habit of encouraging capital flight from Nigeria through medical tourism.
â€œThe trend in medical tourism in Nigeria could become an economic threat to the nationâ€™s health industry and scarce foreign exchange. The trend represents a drain on the nationâ€™s scarce resources and a disincentive to the improvement of healthcare services.â€