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MEDICAL TOURISM

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MEDICAL TOURISM

The healthcare system of every society plays a crucial role in its smooth running.  The government must pay adequate attention to ensure that it is full functional. However, it is pathetic that the ministry is among the neglected ministries in  Nigeria. 

In recent times the number of healthcare workers that have migrated to the UK,  USA, and other countries has increased significantly, according to research by the  Nigerian Polling Agency in partnership with the Nigerian Health Watch says 88  percent of doctors are considering taking opportunities abroad. 

Data from the World Health Organization reveals that the ratio of physicians to  patients in Nigeria is at four doctors to ten thousand patients 4/10,000 the gap  between the standard ratio of a doctor to six hundred patients 1/600 and the  current realities is far apart. The 2021 budget has only 7.1 percent allocated to  the ministry of health this is beyond the ‘Abuja Declaration’ pledge of 15 percent  budgetary allocation to the healthcare system. 

In 2001, the African Union countries pledged to allocate at least 15 percent of  their annual budget to improve the healthcare system of their countries. It is 20  years since that meeting in Abuja and only a few member countries have  implemented the agreement sadly, Nigeria is not one of them. 

Year in year out medical practitioners have embarked on industrial actions to  demand better funding and better working conditions for their members.  Recently, the National Association of Resident Doctors took nationwide industrial  action to protest the lack of payment, lack of insurance cover, insufficient hazard  allowance, and other reasons.

This action has crippled activities in public hospitals across the nation leaving  patients stranded and unattended; the striking doctors insist their demands must  be met before they return to work. 

The federal government has been less concerned with the sorry state of health  institutions across the country because they travel to get standard healthcare  outside the country. Experts say Nigeria loses N576 billion ($1.2 billion) annually  to medical tourism. Reports suggest that almost 5000 people leave the country  monthly for different treatment abroad however, the number has reduced  drastically due to the Covid-19 pandemic according to investigations by the  Guardian Newspaper. 

Muhammadu Buhari has traveled abroad over ten times for medical purposes  since he assumed office as President in 2015. President Buhari departed the  Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport on Tuesday, March 30th, 2021 for the 12th  medical visit to London. In a statement issued by the presidential media aide,  Femi Adesina said President Buhari will return in the second week of April.  

The President’s visit came in the wake of the industrial action by residents  doctors, angry Nigerians in London who took to the streets to protest the  insensitivity of the President’s medical trip demanded the President return to  Nigeria for his medical check-up.  

Reno Omokri former media aide to President Goodluck Jonathan and Convener of the #HarassBuhariOutofLondon protest said in a statement released to PREMIUM  TIMES that he believes President Buhari is not running a government rather a  criminal enterprise, he also added that the President has budgeted over N10  billion ($29 million) in the last five years for the state house clinic, he said that  amount is enough to build a hospital and train doctors to treat him back home. 

However, that was not my main reason for initiating the protest’ he added, ‘I did  it really as a way of seeking closure for victims of the #EndSARS protest because  General Buhari’s spin doctors are going around town misrepresenting the US  State Department’s human rights report as a vindication that the Lekki Massacre  did not happen.’ Protesters stormed the Abuja House in London carrying placards with different inscriptions insisting that the president returns to Nigeria for his  medical routine check. 

Meanwhile, Lauretta Onochie social media aide to President Buhari reacted to the protest and uproar by Nigerians in a tweet justifying the presidential trip. She said ‘President Buhari won’t dump his doctors of about 40 years so that wailers can be happy.’ She said if he chooses he’d go on medical trips in 2022 and 2023 as it is his choice. 

It is insensitive that government is nonchalant about the healthcare system of the country. several patients have died for lack of proper medical care this can only  be attributed to the poor function, management, and, inadequate medical  facilities.  

President Buhari during his campaign in 2015, promised to ban medical tourism  by politicians and increase the quality of all federal government-owned hospitals  to world-class standard by 2019, increase the national health expenditure per  person to about N50 thousand per annum from less than N10 thousand amongst  other promises; It is almost 7 years into the President Buhari-led government and non of his campaign promises regarding the healthcare system has been met.  

After much back and forth with a government representative, minister of Labour  and Employment Sen. Chris Ngige, and other government officials the striking  doctors agreed to return to work. Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi President of the  National Association of Resident Doctors NARD said the association is satisfied  with the negotiation and urged all parties to fulfill their part of the deal. The  doctors said they will not hesitate to go on strike if the government does not  meet up their agreed demands after four weeks.

Author: Kangmwa Gofwen

Lagos Bureau Chief, Nigeria

gofwenjoy@gmail.com

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