Medical Tourism has long been identified as a drain on Nigeria’s resources – human and material. Nigerians embarking on travels to medically developed countries for treatment, over the years, left the country under-developed medically. Nigerian politicians are mostly the big patrons of medical travels abroad. The irony is that they are treated by Nigerian doctors in some of the medical facilities, especially in UK and US.
United Kingdom is said to have more than 3,000 Nigerian trained doctors, and United States of America, more than 5,000 trained doctors working in these countries. Nigerians spent $1 billion dollars on foreign medical trips in 2013, most of which was unnecessary, according to Dr. Osahon Enabulele, a former president, Nigerian Medical Association, NMA.
Could it be a hope for a new dawn, as Nigerian House of Representatives commenced process on a law that would discourage medical tourism embarked upon by public office holders in the country? Representative Sergius Ogun sponsored Bill, seeks to prohibit international trips for medical treatment by public officers without approval. It also seeks to strengthen health institutions for efficient health-care service delivery in the country.
Wednesday, January 24, Ogun said the bill comprised of 13 clauses. It was necessitated to address the abuse of opportunities by public officers who seek medical treatment abroad. Ogun’s words: “These abuses are many, on the pretext of fabricated medical conditions; many public officials simply disappear from Nigeria and abdicate their duties for lengthy periods while their emoluments are paid for the period”.
Ogun said: “Nigeria is also paying the bills for their medical tours. Even those who have not fabricated their conditions abandon their official duties on account of ailments that can be treated in Nigeria. It is said that hundreds of Nigerians daily embark on medical tours to countries in Europe, America and Asia; a great number of these Nigerians are public officials”.
Quoting “Pharmanews” publication, Ogun said the 2014 Nigeria Medical Association, NMA annual report, stated that the Indian High Commission confirmed that Indian hospitals received 18,000 Nigerians on medical visa in 2012.
“And these Nigerians spent about $260million on those trips in one year. This gives us a picture of what Nigeria as a nation has sunk overall into medical tours by public officials and their kit and kin. There is urgent need to curtail this anomaly”, Ogun added.
The bill would come up for second reading and debate on its general principles.