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Systemic Decay In Nigeria's Healthcare System

by 31/10/2012 12:51:00 0 comments 2405 Views
Systemic Decay In Nigeria's Healthcare System

The recent report credited to the President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Osahon Enabulele, that over 5,000 Nigerians travel to India and other countries monthly for medical treatment is disturbing. Enabulele had, at a press conference to herald this year’s “Physicians’ Week”, drawn attention to the glaring fact that Nigeria loses over $500 million annually to medical tourism, with $260 million going to India alone.

The NMA president also rightly observed that years of systemic decay brought about by lack of political commitment, corruption and mismanagement of our collective wealth have adversely affected the health sector to the extent that our political leaders seem not to have confidence in our healthcare facilities anymore. He, therefore, called on the political leaders in the country to seek medical care in public hospitals established by them. We share the concerns expressed by the NMA and call on the relevant government agencies, especially the Federal Ministry of Health alongside its state counterparts, to do something urgently to stem the tide of medical tourism by Nigerians to overseas countries. What the NMA has said is, indeed, a true reflection of the situation on the ground. It is a fact that many Nigerians now troop to India for medical attention.

Most Nigerians that travel to India go there mainly for renal failure treatment. Fortunately, Nigeria has centres for this type of ailment, yet Nigerians still go outside to access treatment. Government should look into the matter and work towards improving the nation’s healthcare delivery system. The huge amount of money lost to medical tourism can, at least, fix one or two of our ailing health facilities. Everything should be done to stop the growing medical tourism that grossly drains our scarce foreign exchange. Apart from encouraging capital flight, it is humiliating that our political leaders go outside our shores in search of medical care while their so-called centres of medical excellence are not patronized. It is hypocritical that our leaders do not patronize the same hospitals they want the citizens to attend. Government must do something to stop the embarrassing situation where our leaders, including members of the first family, leave the country to access foreign medical treatment.

This illustrates the helpless situation we have boxed ourselves into due to long years of neglect of our healthcare system. From mere consulting clinics of the past, our hospitals are daily degenerating to something else. Strikes by doctors and other health workers over conditions of service and deteriorating equipment, have now become commonplace and do not help matters. Undoubtedly, an efficient and excellent medical care system is a possibility in Nigeria. We have the resources and the medical personnel that can make it work. Nigerian medical doctors work in some well-established foreign medical institutions in Europe and America. Government should attract some of these highly qualified Nigerians to come home and work by improving the working conditions of doctors generally and procuring up-to- date medical equipment.

There is need for our politicians to patronize the nation’s healthcare facilities. Doing so will enhance the nation’s overall development. In view of the seriousness of the matter, we call for a legislation to ban our political office holders from seeking medical treatment abroad. This ban should include their wives, children and wards. That is the only way they can improve the nation’s health facilities. Right now, it appears that our leaders are not interested in making our health facilities to work efficiently because they do not access them.

Neglect on their part will only worsen the situation. Let them do the needful now and salvage the situation. We, therefore, challenge them to take pride in our medical system and make it the envy of other countries instead of rushing to foreign countries to treat diseases that can be well handled in Nigeria. Leaders of other countries patronize their medical facilities. It is by patronizing our health system that it will grow to internationally acceptable heights.

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