Government opposition to medical tourism in Nigeria

 

The Niger State government has resolved to stop outbound medical tourism outside the country and entered into a partnership with Primus Hospital based in Abuja for referral treatments.

The state governor Israel A. Ebije has agreed to money being used to encourage Nigerians to rely on hospitals within the country and wants to encourage hospitals in the country to attain the status of those abroad- “Niger state government is interested in curbing the shameful traffic of Nigerians on medical tourism in foreign countries by directing attention to home based hospitals for referrals instead. Though Primus is owned by Indians, it’s a positive step towards encouraging home based hospitals grow. Already the partnership between Niger state government and Primus hospital is yielding results as over 400 referral cases have been seen. Successful knee and spine surgery and dialysis have been carried out.

Niger state government and the hospital will jointly establish a diagnostic center with MRI and other modern technology by the end of the year. Land next to the hospital has been donated by the state as its contribution to the diagnostic Centre. It is expected to take patients from all 25 local government areas of Niger state and patients from nearby Nigerian states.

Another country where there is a growing undercurrent against medical tourism is Zambia. While most of the population suffer a poor or non-existent local healthcare service, the same politicians who claim there is not enough money to improve healthcare, seem to find money from the public purse to pay for medical care in other countries.

Recently, President Sata has flown to Israel, the UK and South Africa to get state paid private treatment.

In his latest venture abroad President Michael Sata was booked into Assuta Medical Centre in Tel Aviv for major cancer treatment. Sata was very ill when he was evacuated and needed an air ambulance. The cover story that Sata was there for a political meeting with Israel politicians was not believed by the Zambian press. Conflicting information on the health and whereabouts of the president even led to his party claiming he was in the country when he was in a hospital bed in Israel.

The Lusaka High Court refused the request for a judicial review proposed by civil rights activist Brebner Changala asking the court to constitute a medical board to examine the physical and mental status of President Michael Sata.

When Kazimu Sata, the son of President Michael Sata, suffered injuries in a terrifying road accident recently, he was swiftly evacuated to South Africa for treatment by air ambulance. But his two friends, who were passengers in the vehicle and who also suffered serious injuries, were left behind to recuperate at the less glamorous Ndola Central Hospital.

Most members of Zambia’s political elite travel abroad for their medical care – most often to South Africa, but in the case of President Sata, there have been many trips to both the United Kingdom and India.

There is nothing wrong with seeking the best available care, and most Zambians have the common humanity to wish a speedy recovery to both Kazimu Sata as well as his father. But just as is happening in Nigeria, there is increasing local anger that so many wealthy people choose to travel abroad for their care instead of working to develop Zambia’s medical capacity hurts the national interest. At the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka recent problems over low wages and poor equipment, led to a nurses strike.

Everybody admits that Zambian hospitals simply do not have the funding for specialist care, or often even good care. But those politicians can simply hop on a flight whenever they are not feeling well, often with all costs paid by the state- and doing little or nothing to improve Zambian health, is causing problems.

Following suggestions from Nigeria, there is a slow groundswell suggesting that all elected politicians and their families should be obliged to receive their care in Zambian hospitals as that would see an immediate improvement to the training, equipment, funding, and innovation of healthcare facilities throughout the country.

For an interim measure, Zambians want politicians to pay out of their own pocket for any overseas care.

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