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Medical Tourism: Is Nigeria Really A “Giant Of Africa”?

Hussain Obaro

Hussain Obaro, an outstanding Naij.com contributor, raises the issue of medical tourism taking place in Nigeria and explains why it may ruin the image of “Giant of Africa” Nigeria is trying to create.

A friend of mine told me about the experience he had two years ago when he worked as a medical officer (MO) at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Katsina. The chairman of the local government rushed his 16 weeks pregnant second wife to the hospital for vagina bleeding. Doctors later found out that the woman had a miscarriage.

One of the doctors asked the honorable chairman why he hadn’t enlisted his wife for antenatal examination earlier because there was no record that she was ever enlisted the in FMC Katsina. The man boastfully said: “Do you really expect me to enlist my wife in this kind of hospital for antenatal examination? There are better hospitals in Egypt and other countries”.

Amazed by his cluelessness, my friend asked him whether he knew the reasons for his wife’s miscarriage. However, the man simply said: “You tell me. You are a doctor here”.

Even though the chairman’s first wife had the antenatal examination in Nigeria, the man, who thought his elevated status should be reflected even in the choice of hospital, opted for Egypt as a way of “showing off” before his peers and friends. The funny thing is that, after two trips to Egypt, he had to rush the young lady to a Nigerian hospital instead of flying her to Egypt! The miscarriage could have been avoided had the lady been allowed to receive antenatal care in Nigeria.

Government at various levels has been doing so much to provide the modern facilities to enhance healthcare delivery system in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the issue of medical tourism, which has already caused so much embarrassment to Nigeria and the rest of Africa, is burning.

Even when there are adequate facilities and well-trained personnel, some wealthy Nigerians still prefer to travel abroad for medical care. The reasons range from showing off the elevated status and wealth to the lack of trust and confidence in the Nigerian healthcare delivery system. Moreover, those occupying public offices are entitled to free or government-sponsored medical care, so they opt for foreign hospitals as a way of wasting the country’s resources. After all it’s not their hard-earned money.

Nowadays, Nigerian public office-holders travel abroad for medical challenges as ordinary as malaria. Some even fly out of the country wasting the tax payers’ money to only get examined. In fact, despite the lack of sophistication in very serious and emergency cases, Nigerian hospitals can compete favourably with the rest of the world.

The money being wasted on foreign medical trips yearly accounts for millions of dollars. They should be properly channeled into providing and establishing world-class hospitals in different parts of the country which would benefit both the rich and the poor.

During the lifetime of Nelson Mandela, even when he was critically ill, I didn’t hear of any time he was flown out of South Africa for medical care. An example of an internationally-respected leader insisting on seeking medical care within the boundaries of South Africa is one that Nigerian leaders and public office-holders should follow. The rest of Africa and the world should see that the health sector of a self-proclaimed “Giant of Africa” is second-to-none in the continent. But ridiculously, many of our public office-holders even travel to smaller African countries to seek medical care.

There’s a need for the leaders of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and indeed all public office-holders to stop embarrassing the country. We need to abandon the thought that anything foreign is better. We have well-trained medical personnel in Nigeria. All the government needs to do is to further upgrade the medical facilities in the Nigerian hospitals.

They say one of the features of the third-world nations is their inferiority complex of always failing to consume, utilize or patronize what they produce or have.

One of the ways Nigeria can earn respect as a “Giant of Africa” is to rise above the mentality of seeing anything foreign as better than domestic. By law, through the National Assembly, public office-holders, from the president to the ward councilors, should be mandated to patronize Nigerian hospitals.

It is only through this that Nigerians, our African brethren and the rest of the world would have confidence in the Nigerian healthcare delivery system. We should stop this continuous drain of the country’s resources and economy in the guise of seeking medical care abroad. This wastage must be put to an end if we are really a “Giant of Africa”.

Hussain Obaro, 1 day ago

Copyright © Naij, 2011-2015.

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