The chairman, Nigerian Medical Association, Abia State, Dr. Chimezie Okwuonu, has said Nigerians spend about N359.2 billion on medical tourism annually, an amount N19.2 billion more than the 2018 budget of N340 billion for the health sector.
Okwuonu was speaking at a symposium to create awareness on kidney transplants, successes, challenges and impediments organized by the Renal Unit of the Federal Medical Center, Umuahia.
He said it was cheaper and safer to have kidney transplants in Nigeria than abroad and challenged government to provide the needed equipment as the country already has competent hands to handle kidney challenges.
He said: “Nigerian nephrologists have the required expertise and handle their patients well. The success rate of surgery is 100% and the survival rate of patients after four years is 80% in our centre. This is comparable to what is obtainable outside the country”.
He said government at all levels should focus more on healthcare development to put to an end, the incessant medical tourism by Nigerians.
According to him, it costs about $442,500 to undergo kidney transplant in the US but between N5 million and N9 million in the country.
Highlighting the successes made so far in renal transplants in the centre, Okwuonu said two out of the 11 cases handled since 2017 when it commenced the innovation were lost.
“The two deaths at the centre,” he said, “were during post-transplant period as a result of cardiovascular disease and overwhelming infection.”
In a remark, the chief medical director of the centre, Professor Azubuike Onyebuchi, said some of the initial challenges recorded when it started kidney transplants in 2017 were being gradually addressed.
Similarly, the provost, College of Medicine, Gregory University Uturu, Professor I. U Iweha, said early detection and treatment of renal cases were necessary to avoid complications.
In his comment, the secretary to the state government, Barr Chris Ezem, commended medical experts at the centre for their exploits in kidney transplant and management of kidney-related ailments.
Deputy chairman, Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, HRM Eze Godfrey Onwuka, expressed delight with the advancement of the centre in handling kidney diseases, saying it would help save a lot of lives in the region.