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Towards Ending Medical Tourism In Nigeria



The move to end medical tourism in Nigeria has been a long one especially with concerns often raised by experts. ANYAORA THELMA CHIOMA reports that the call took centre stage during the just concluded 3rd anniversary celebration of Nizamiye Hospital in Abuja.

It is an established fact that health is wealth even as it is well known fact that the nation’s health sector has been subject of different discourse owing to the fact that the sector is yet to be where it ought to to be.

But then of course, the Nigerian health sector is undergoing major reforms aimed at repositioning primary, secondary and tertiary health care system for easy access and affordability to all.

One outstanding feature of the nation’s health system is that due to poor services occasioned by lack of good equipment, privileged Nigerians prefer to seek health care outside the shores of the country. This has led to what is commonly referred to as medical tourism.

Exerts have advocated an end or at best, drastic reduction in the number of people travelling abroad to seek medical attention as the country is said to be losing over $ 1 billion annually to medical tourism.

Indeed, this formed part of deliberations at the 3rd anniversary celebration of the Nizamiye Hospital Abuja where the minister of state for health Dr. Osagie Ehanire disclosed that the country cannot continue to fund overseas medical treatment when there are better equipped hospitals like Nizamiye in Nigeria.

Ehanire said, at the wake of President Muhamadu Buhari’s led administration, there was embargo on overseas medical treatment by civil servants and top government functionaries to reduce cost and discourage exchange rates in the dollar to Naira ratio and avoid undue patronage of medical institutions abroad.

The minister commended the management of Nizamiye hospital and the chairman of First Surat Group even as he urged them to establish similar tertiary health institutions in other parts of the country to address the short supply of medical care in Nigeria.

According to the minister, there is no need for Nigerians to travel abroad for medical vacations considering the first class medical and health services offered by Nizamiye hospital in the last three years.

Dr Ehanire expressed satisfaction at the level of collaboration between government and the hospital, especially in the areas of expatriates, state of the art medical equipment and the provision of free medical services to the less privilege Nigerians.

In a speech, the former minister for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Ibrahim Modibo, whose administration allocated the piece of land to the Nizamiye hospital declared that when the top management of First Surat Group approached his ministry for land allocation to build a hospital, several inspections were made and a trip to Istanbul to practically demonstrate the kind of medical facility intended for the land.

“Today I am not only amazed but satisfied with the tertiary health facility established by the Group, so I have no regret whatsoever for allocating the land for Direct Foreign Investment DFI,” he said

He added that, after leaving office nine years ago, the health facility he allocated land for has become one of the best hospitals in Nigeria with state of the art equipment that can be compared with any standard globally.

Presenting the medical performance of the hospital and free medical treatment offered to the less privileged Nigerians, the chief medical director of the hospital Dr. Akah Huseyin said the journey was full of challenges, which had led to the success story of Nizamiye today.

He declared that the hospital is of international standard with well-equipped Emergency unit, Adult/newborn Intensive Care Unit, Operating Theater, Labour and delivery rooms, Laboratory,Pharmacy, Central Surgery, Radiocology, Cardiology, Dental clinic, Internal medecine Orthopedics and Traumatology, obstetrics and Gynecology, Ophthalmology, Anesthesiology and Algology, Neurology/Neurosurgery and Dermatology.

Dr. Huseyin stated that the hospital had since inception carried out about 50, 000 successful surgery and unprecedented number of free medical treatment to Nigerians who cannot afford medical bills.

According to him, the foundation of the hospital determine so much its success, saying the concept was to provide quality and affordable health care system to Nigerians and residence of Abuja.

Interestingly, the event drew participants from the health, academia, technocrats and politicians from the executive and the parliament including the wife of Late President Musa Yar’Adua, Hajia Ture, the representative of the FCT minister, the deputy governor of Bauchi state Engr Nuhu Gidado, former INEC chairman Atahiru Jega among others and Senator Osita Izinacho.

The import of the dignitaries can best be appreciated if one take cognizance of the fact that they are mainly among the key policy makers and are expected to support the implementation of policies that will end medical tourism in the country.

First Surat Group of Companies had continued to invest in the Nigerian economy for decades. They have made a mark in the education sector through the establishment of the prestigious Nigerian Turkish International Colleges NTIC, and the Nile University of Nigeria. Having succeeded in that sector, the Turkish investors decided to expand its activity to the Nigerian healthcare sector, which led to the establishment of Nigerian Turkish Nizamiye Hospital.

Nizamiye Hospital is as well-equipped as it is imposing. Its cardiology clinic uses the ECHO, ECG and Treadmill to diagnose cardiovascular diseases, while urology clinic uses transurethral resection technique for prostrate operations and kidney stones extraction, all without making any cuts in the process. For cancer diagnosis, it uses microscopic bone marrow analysis and to diagnose digestive system diseases, it uses colonoscopy tools.

In August last year, the hospital performed its first open heart surgery in Abuja, Dr. Mustafa Kirman who was the lead surgeon led a team of seven specialists that included Turkish and Nigerian professionals to carry out the procedure, said: “The procedure lasted three hours and we thank God that it was a huge success and the patient responded well and has been discharged from the hospital after a seven-day observation period.”

Nizamiye, which also served as a teaching hospital for the Nile University medical college is poised to expand its services to other parts of the country if giving the opportunity.

The hospital was inaugurated in 2014 by former President Goodluck Jonathan and today, the present administration has endorsed the competence and performance of medical personnel at Nizamiye.

The Nigeria health sector witnesses decay in infrastructure and short supply of drugs in public hospitals, but the intervention of private investors has clearly shown a difference, though some of the hospitals are beyond the reach of an average Nigerian.