Medical tourism: Nigeria’s medical flight gulps $2 bn annually- Dr. Otabor

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… Says lack of undisciplined actors affecting health system.

By Joyce Remi-Babayeju

Medical tourism in Nigeria has been estimated to cost between $1.5billon to $2billion annually, as 5,000 Nigerians take off outside the country every month to seek healthcare abroad.
The Chief Medical Director of Alliances Hospital, Dr. Christopher Otabor revealed on Friday this at the 7th Annual Conference of Health Journalists in Nasarawa State.

Speaking at a presentation titled, ” Reversing Medical Tourism in Nigeria: The Role of the Private Sector”, Otabor stated that about unfortunately five thousand Nigerians monthly engage in medical tourism to countries like India, US, UK , Turkey, and even Ghana , among other countries.

Dr. Otabor said that Nigeria can save $1 trillion every year if medical tourism is stalled.

He said,” Factors encouraging medical tourism include lack of basic and advanced medical equipment, attitude, and culture of medical staff, incessant strike , brain drain which is associated with distressed economy and the status symbol of citizens who like to show off that they can afford to go overseas to get medical treatment, and especially for some mothers who brag that they can give birth abroad.”
“And lastly, free government funds because the money sank into health facilities does not come from the pockets of those managing the facilities.”

Speaking on how the Private Sector can salvage medical tourism, the medical expert said that the Private hospitals are already taking the lead.

“Alliance Hospital has being able to contribute it’s quarter to reverse medical tourism by handling over 100 kidney transplants in Nigeria , contributing to the 80% done in private hospitals.”
Other medical treatments include surgeries like heart transplant joint replacement limb construction, he said.

Furthermore, Dr. Otabor noted that undisciplined actors in the public sector are affecting healthcare facilities which are plagued with poor equipment maintenance culture and lack of sanctions on erring workers who are products of undisciplined political actor.
On the other hand, he said that the private sector brings discipline into the healthcare system, paying these workers because they want the best outcomes.
Also, good remuneration, motivation, and zero tolerance for industrial disharmony in private health facilities , while taking charge of functional medical equipment.

He advised that there should be a public private partnership to ensure the country’s health care system picks up to eliminate medical tourism in Nigeria.

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