Nigeria fails to halt medical tourism

 

Nigeria loses N359.2 billion to medical tourism annually, which is more than the N340.45 billion allocated to the health sector in the 2018 budget.

With around 9,000 outbound medical tourists a month, over 100,000 a year, Nigeria loses US$1.35 billion dollars annually to medical tourism, with India being the major beneficiary of 500 visits a month. Many Nigerians who travel out of the country for their medical needs often have to go back regularly for check-ups.

The latest inbound medical tourism figures from the Indian government, based mainly on medical visa numbers, say that numbers from Nigeria fell from 9,277 in 2016 to 5,530 in 2017.

Almost every time a new hospital opens in Nigeria, a politician steps up to claim that the government of Nigeria is tackling outbound medical tourism. But none have managed to back up their claims with reliable facts or figures. Nigerian medical professionals and organisations regularly dispute their claims.

Politicians also try to divert attention from the real problems of Nigerian healthcare by claiming new inbound medical tourism initiatives. These mostly fail or, in the recent case of the Cardiac Centre in Gbagadam never even open. A snap inspection in 2016 of the Lagos State Cardiac and Renal Centre at Gbagada General Hospital suggested incompetence and corruption. The centre was not operational, as expensive equipment was not functioning less than a year since commissioning. The medical staff had left, and the one-year old building was at risk of collapse with cracks in the walls and electrical defects.

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