Health Minister to Reverse $1bn Medical Tourism Capaital Flight

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Ugo Aliogo, Azeezat Abdulkareem and Ibukunoluwa Salami
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has expressed concern over the huge capital spending on medical tourism by Nigerians, stating that over $1 billion  is spent on medical tourism abroad to countries such as India, Malaysia, China, Egypt, United Kingdom and others, with 60 per cent of the fund spent in four major areas of cardiology, orthopaedic, renal dialysis issues and cancer.

Adewole who disclosed this yesterday in Lagos at the fourth annual meeting of the Nigeria-America Medical Foundation (NAMFI) with the theme; ‘Overseas Consultations, Treatment Travel: Super-Specialty Care in Nigeria: Sustainable Solution,’ noted that the development of a medical tourism destination should be a conscious effort of multi-sectorial collaboration as evidenced by the United Arab Emirate (UAE) experience.

He explained that the rising demand for international best practices and rapid growth being experienced by the medical tourism industry has opened up some lucrative investment opportunities, adding that the health sector is capable of yielding four-times the revenue generated by the hotel industry for the same amount of investment.

Adewole expressed the commitment of the present administration to ensure that the health sector is repositioned in a manner that would strengthen the quality of service delivery and discourage medical tourism.

“In Nigeria, we need infrastructural development and human resource optimization. We have to invest in high quality, specialized care, low cost, reduce waiting time, improve access, and international accreditation,” he added.

 The minister who was represented by the Director of Public Private Partnership Initiative, Dr. Omobolanle Olowu, assured Nigerians that with concerted efforts of the public and private sector, the country could be a strong player in this contest.
He added: “The Federal Ministry of Health is embarking on rehabilitation of our Federal Tertiary Health institutions to world class standard. Some of these Federal Tertiary health institutions will be designated centers of excellence.

“We are also currently in the  process of restoring radiation oncology services in Nigeria by making the radiotherapy machines in the country functional so as to reduce the migration of cancer patients who require radiation therapy to centers overseas.
“Our referral system will be improved with the revitalization of Primary Healthcare services (10,000 Primary Health Care centers will be made operational in the next few months).

“The 2016 National Health Policy titled: ‘To accelerate the socio-economic development of Nigeria through the promotion of healthcare systems’ was reviewed and approved recently by the recently concluded Emergency National Council on Health. This is to help Nigeria achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and sustainable health development in the years to come, this is expected to make healthcare accessible and available.

“The hospitals will be equipped and other public health facilities as well as re-orient the medical and health personnel to adopt positive work attitude to ensure quality and efficient healthcare delivery to our people.
The ministry will boost the capacity of our health workers to enable them render accurate diagnosis of diseases and sustain the training and retraining of staff.”