- Legislator pledges action on bill to stop medical tourism by govt officials
IN recent times, India has become a destination of choice for Nigerians seeking advanced and affordable medical services. From Kidney transplant to cancer treatment, thousands of Nigerians travel to India annually.
Minister of State for Health, Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate, recently disclosed that the country loses $500 million or N81 billion yearly to others as Nigerians seek solutions to their medical challenges abroad.
President, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Osahon Enabulele frowned at increasing medical tourism, which he said always made Nigeria lose fortunes to other countries like China and India, yearly.
Enabulele said, “years of systemic decay occasioned by lack of political commitment, cancerous levels of corruption and mismanagement of our collective wealth had adversely affected the sector even such that today, our political leaders paradoxically seem not to have confidence in healthcare facilities established by them, anymore.”
Indeed, Indian hospitals are fast taking advantage of lapses in the Nigerian healthcare delivery system to attract Nigerians seeking high-class medical treatment with international touch. One of such hospitals that have already set up shop is the Primus International Super Specialty Hospital located in Karu, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
However, the growing demand for cheap and specialised medical care from Indian hospitals is not without skirmishes. There have been allegations of unmethodical practices by some Indian hospitals in their quest for Nigerian clients.
It is alleged that some companies representing hospitals in India advertise in Nigerian Hospitals in collusion with the medical directors and are allowed to speak to doctors directly. They often invite doctors in these hospitals to refer patients to them for a 10 per cent return on the total cost of treatment. This money is added to the cost of the patients’ treatment and then surreptitiously paid to the doctor.
Indeed, Primus International Specialty Hospital ever since it took base in the country has been in the eye of the storm with sundry allegations leveled against it. Yet, the hospital is said to boast of world-class facilities with specialist Indian doctors providing care.
A pharmacist, Adaeze Omaliko said this is to be expected given the fact that anti-India sentiments is very high among Nigerians.
However, The Guardian investigations revealed that the gory picture painted by some Nigerians against the hospital is not as bad as it seems given the encomiums and praises showered on it by many high profile and not so highly-placed Nigerians in the society.
Recently, some patients of the hospital gathered at the hospital premise to protest what they believed to be deliberate attempt by some “unscrupulous” Nigerians to bring down the image of the hospital.
The patients’ testimonies also came against the backdrop of pending case in an Abuja High Court filed by two of its doctors over alleged maltreatment.
Speaking to journalists recently at the Primus International Specialty Hospital in his capacity as someone, who had earlier accessed care in the hospital, Hon Albert Tanimu emphasised that with such a facility in the country there was no need for Nigerians to travel abroad.
The House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon Tanimu, pledged to sponsor a bill to stop medical tourism by federal government officials who travel out of the country to seek medical treatment.
The House of Representatives member, who represents Takum Duga Ussa from Taraba State, lamented that Nigerians, who travel abroad to seek treatment are gradually destroying the health sector, the economy and slowing killing development.
He said, “I am from Taraba State. My governor has been sending people abroad for medical treatment. It is not as if I wanted to travel abroad I wouldn’t have gone I would not sponsor myself. My governor would have done so. I wanted to go outside for my treatment but I thought the better of it especially considering that we have facilities in Nigeria. We have been mounting a campaign for Nigerians to be treated in the Nigerian way.”
Tanimu said he had accessed care at Primus Hospital and was sure at given the right support many more hospitals could compete well in Nigeria.
He said people send their wards abroad and neglect the facilities in the country thereby gradually killing the economy, destroying the education and health sector while helping to build the economies of other nations that encourage medical or other tourism.
Narrating his experiences from visiting several health facilities in search of relief from the pain in his hip, he said the Primus International Specialist Hospital, gave him succour by successfully replacing his hip-bone through surgery making it possible for him to walk and make use of his legs again.
He said he had recommended to the National Assembly that six hospital should be established the six geo-political zones of the country.
Chairperson of Market Women’s Association of Nigeria, Chief Mrs Fatima Muhammadu Sani expressed joy that 6000 of her members were treated free of charge by the hospital.
She said, “all the facilities abroad are found here, there is no need to travel abroad, when you can actually get the same quality care here, this hospital has saved us from Visa, tickets and accommodation issues.”
She said that the attitudes of staff at the hospital was a far cry from what was obtainable in Nigerian hospitals wherein the staff were rude and insensitive to patient’s plight.
According to her, what kills a man when he goes to Nigerian hospitals is not the ailment that took him there but it’s the various medical things and anomaly that take place inside treatment centres.
She called on Nigerian hospitals to improve their services and imitate the good qualities and care provided at the Primus International Specialty hospital, Karu.
Sani also called on persons spreading ugly rumours about the hospital to desist from such saying the hospital has come to bring succor to Nigerians, who are ill and unable to afford the funds to travel abroad.
The management of the hospital refused comment, owing to a court case it had pending in an Abuja High court, but the Managing Director and Chairperson of the Hospital, Dr. Achla Dewan, in an interview with journalists in Abuja recently, asked rhetorically the “what offence have we committed by bringing this investment to Nigeria.”
Dewan said their intention to come to Nigeria was to bring Medicare closer to Nigerians, because they constitute their major patients abroad; adding hat high number of Nigerians coming to India becomes a source of concern to the Nigerian High Commission in New Delhi, later, the High Commission then contacted her.
She said, “it is very disappointing, we’re helping humanity, we have come all the way, our doctors, it is easy for us to come all away to start a hospital because Nigerians need it.”
On qualifications of the Indian doctors, Dewan said the process of recruiting the medical personnel was thorough and in line with the guidelines of government of Nigeria.
Primus Hospital commenced operation in April 2011, after it entered into an agreement with the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) based on Public Private Partnership (PPP). The idea was to build a complete five star international hospital, it was then decided that since FCDA had an existing facility, it was better to contract it through the PPP model.
Dewan, said the objective was to establish a network of world-class centres in health care by providing state of the art facility and creation of ethical, compassionate patient care through professional excellence. The 120 bed space international hospital services, according to Dewan will offer several state-of-the-art services including neurosciences, kidney transplantation, minimal access and bariatric surgery, among other means of preventive health.
She said the need to reduce the cost of travel for prospective Nigerian patients also informed establishment of the hospital.
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