Ehanire: Lack of Confidence in Local Hospitals Responsible for Medical Tourism

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Osagie Ehanire

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has blamed the scourge of foreign medical tourism hitting Nigeria to the loss of confidence by patients in the country’s hospitals and other health institutions.

He said that there is a need for Nigerian hospitals to improve on patients’ care and experience in order to retain their confidence.

The minister made this known yesterday at the 2nd National Health Summit of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) with theme: “Patient-Centered Care” in Abuja.

Ehanire said that lack of confidentiality and the disrespectful attitudes of hospital staff to patients, have brought damage to the image of the health system and reputation of Nigerian hospitals more than lack of equipment, technical expertise, poor housekeeping and sanitation.

“There is no doubt that the loss of confidence in our hospitals is the father of medical tourism. There is no doubt that our health system is in need of review and reforms”, he said.

According to the minister, “patient is at the centre of all healthcare activities and there is no greater measure of the quality of healthcare anywhere than the priority accorded the patient at every level of treatment”.

“It is no longer just enough for the patient to be assured accurate diagnosis and treatment for his ailment, he expects, and must be accorded full confidentiality and due respect, so that patient experience is improved. It does not cost too much money to repair that. All we need is a mindset change,” he said.

The minister said that there is an urgent need to address the brain drain currently going on in the health sector, especially when medical doctors are migrating to pastures some may consider to be greener.

“The federal government would like to open up a conversation with doctors and nurses, to study ways of retaining our skilled workforce, trained at great expense to the state, as determined by the Postgraduate Medical College.

“We still have much need to strengthen our highly specialised human resource for health for expanded healthcare delivery. The Federal Ministry of Health will work with states and local governments to encourage the creation of a conducive environment for healthcare professionals to practice and thrive.

He said the Diaspora Healthcare Initiative is another programme that government is testing, “to scale up the capacity of the healthcare workforce by the transfer and exchange of cutting edge knowledge and skills, and also patient management expertise of Nigerian diaspora workforce, to their colleagues at home”.

“Many developing countries do this to acquire global best practices and we believe such interaction will build capacity, and impact on provision of care to patients.

“Nigeria’s health human resources needs are real. We have a situation where human resource experts, trained and skilled at great cost to the notion, (roughly estimated by the Nigeria Postgraduate Medical College at N70 million per fellow, are lost to our health system by migration to already developed countries,” he said.

In his speech, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Francis Faduyile, explained that brain drain and brain gain were chosen as a sub-theme on account of the deepening human resource crisis in the health sector.

According to Faduyile, lack of investment on medical education is the reason Nigeria losses less than 60 per cent of her medical graduates.

He said that seven out of 10 Nigerian trained doctors are either out of the country or on their way out, and up to 80 per cent of newly graduated doctors are considering migrating abroad, with consequent worsening patients to doctors’ ratio.