Medical Tourism: Minister Reads Riot Act to Doctors

By Uchechukwu Nnaike

The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, has frowned at the rate of medical tourism among Nigerians and has threatened to sanction any medical doctor in a public hospital who refers a case that could be treated in the country abroad.

He said a responsive government would harness all available resources and expertise to discourage the flight of her citizens for medical reason.

He however said the government could not stop those who use their personal resources, “but if you are going to use Nigerian money, then we need to determine how that money is spent and we will not want you to go out for things that can be done here. Before we pay for it, we want to be sure that it cannot be done in Nigeria.”

Adewole made this known at a dinner and awards ceremony organised by the Lagos State University (LASU) Alumni Association, to celebrate doctors at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) for successfully carrying out kidney transplant operation, as well as some distinguished alumni.

The minister, who commended the medical team at LASUTH for achieving the feat, stressed that most of the cases taken abroad could be managed successfully in the country. He said organ transplant was one of the life-saving complex and sophisticated surgery that often drive medical tourism.

He said the achievement had shown the capacity of the country’s health system, adding that it was a source of hope and a pointer to other things to be achieved.

He regretted that medical tourism by Nigerians had negatively affected the economy, as the country lost about $1 billion annually to medical trips, and on the contrary, it had developed the economies of many of the host countries.

“Kidney transplant is one of the commonest reasons why Nigerians seek medical attention for organ transplant abroad. Individuals with such problems would expend money on international travels, hotels, investigations, medical and surgical treatment, as well as the follow-up care.

“The financing of all these stages of care abroad would be in foreign currency and these practices have had negative effect on our foreign exchange as well as the country’s reserve”, he said.

The minister also commended the Lagos State government for supporting the management of LASU and the medical team to achieve the success and urged other state governments to emulate the practice of investing in the health sector not only for its social reason, but also to take advantage of the potential economic benefits.

While reiterating the commitment of the current administration to make primary health care accessible to all, he appealed to health professionals that Nigerians were tired of wrangling and strikes for frivolous reasons.

“While this government will prioritise welfare of health professionals, it will frown against unjustifiable disruption of medical services. Consequently, we shall operate ‘no work no pay policy’,” Adewole said.

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