Nigeria still combating outbound medical tourism

 

As part of efforts to save the country an estimated $200 million in foreign exchange that it loses annually from medical tourism to India and other countries, the governor of Lagos state Babatunde Raji Fashola, and minister of health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, have inaugurated a new Indo-Nigerian multi specialty clinic, Vedic Lifecare Nigeria.

Vedic Lifecare Clinic was set up by Indo-Nigerian businessmen with clinical, technological and management support from Manipal Hospitals of India. Manipal Hospitals is one of the most patronised hospitals by Nigerians on medical tourism to India.

The Nigerian local government says that with state population of 21 million, it is very difficult to meet the health needs of all Nigerians. So as well as existing state run hospitals, it seeks outside investors to help build new hospitals. It has nominated Lekki to be home to a medical village where investors who want to partner with the state can help to provide local healthcare services in a small-scale medical city.

The government says - “With Vedic Lifecare Clinic there will be no need for anybody to travel to India for medical treatment. We appreciate the partnership they have brought to us. We can now save our airfare, accommodation, the trouble of procuring visa and other expenses in India. We promise a good return on their investment.”

On a national basis the government is determined to curb outbound medical tourism. It hopes that perhaps within the next five years they will see people going to Nigeria for medical treatment. But small hospitals like this new family oriented healthcare facility will work for local care, rather than high-class medical tourism.

Much of the government’s health strategy depends on the upgrade of federal hospitals to deliver better health services, training of health personnel and the involvement of the private sector.

Rajen Padulone of Manipal Health Enterprise commented, “A social seed sown more than five decades ago is today the country’s third largest healthcare group with a network of 15 hospitals and three primary clinics providing comprehensive care that is both curative and preventive in nature for a wide variety of patients not just from India but also from across the globe. Our focus is to develop an affordable tertiary care multispecialty healthcare framework and further extend it to homecare. With this new Nigerian venture we seek to take an international standard of medical service to Nigeria- which has been suffering from serious disease outbreaks.”

Vedic Lifecare Nigeria is planning a bigger hospital next to the new one, which they hope will be commissioned within five years. It also plans to take the concept to Abuja, Port Harcourt and Warri.The company aims to provide healthcare for the local population at affordable prices through the Manipal Hospital Network. It will offer the same range of multi-disciplinary specialist to the people of Nigeria as obtainable in India.

Nigeria’s plan to have at least one world-class private hospital and diagnostic centre in each of the six geo-political zones of the country by May 2015 is nearing fulfilment. A national health committee has analysed the low private sector involvement in the country’s medical businesses and drawn up strategies for improvement of private health entrepreneurship. It is on the verge of developing a business model for the sector to encourage private sector collaboration in the nation’s healthcare business. The committee claims that an average Nigerian medical tourist spends between $20,000 and $40,000 on a trip.

The Federal Ministry of Health is also working on a National Health Insurance Scheme, and legislation for this is underway.

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