Medical Tourism: The shame of a nation

Some Nigerians, as a matter of routine, prefer to access medication in health facilities overseas even if they are just minor ailments that could have been treated locally.

Among them are the political class who do so with public resources that ought to have been appropriately utilized for peopleoriented programmes, including the transformation of the nation’s health sector to a vibrant one. It has been argued that the elected and appointed office holders opt for overseas health facilities due to the absence of a reliable health system in Nigeria.

New Telegraph acknowledges the right to life of every individual, whether in the rooms or corridors of power and argues that the nation’s health sector should have been up and running enough to extend enough adequate healthcare to each Nigerian, regardless of his or her status.

We, however, frown on the existence of compromised managerial acumen at different levels of governance that has yielded space to a dysfunctional health system and make bold to say that the resort to medical tourism at a profound national cost should not and can never be the way out.

The functional foreign health facilities patronized by the members of Nigeria’s political class became a reality due to the vision, planning, commitment, integrity, selflessness, transparency and can-do-it disposition of their counterparts in the Diaspora.

Nothing demonstrates the visionlessness of some members of the political class as to constantly position themselves as beneficiaries of health tourism. What if the foreign countries of destination decide to shut their doors against such members of the political class?

And, because of the reliance on foreign health systems, everything humanly possible must be seen to be done, including deferring to such benefactor-countries on sensitive matters in the field of international relations, in order to be allowed in as beneficiaries of medical tourism.

We observe, with displeasure, that with the continued medical tourism by a rising number of political office holders and other members of the political class, the country’s health sector is likely to remain compromised. Adequate material and financial support may continue to elude the nation’s health sector as a substantial number of the political class patronize foreign health facilities.

Such absurdity helps sustain capital flight and further weakens the economy, which, as illustrated by the recently-presented 2022 Appropriation Bill, is heavily tilted to the tune of 85 percent to capital projects, debtserving and personnel cost.

Worse still, there would be an intensification of domestic and external borrowing, given the Budgetary Estimate’s deficit of N6.26 trillion, which is 3.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This therefore sets the stage for a likely rise in the debt profile and debt servic- ing resulting in the long wandering of Nigeria in the wilderness.

This may continue for as long as the country’s limited funds are frittered away by some political opportunists through medical tourism. In his inaugural speech in 2015, shortly after his oath of office as President and Commanderin- Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, at the Eagle Square, Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari identified medical tourism by members of the political class as a drain to the national treasury.

Yet more than seven years into his administration, he has regrettably, transformed into a perceived arrowhead of medical tourism with Britain as his destination of choice for the muchdesired reliable healthcare. In fact last month, the president once again headed to London for yet another medical trip meaning that he has spent a staggering 225 days outside the country over health issues since assuming office in 2015.

Nothing diminishes the stature of a country as to be heavily dependent on others for a host of products/services including healthcare. This is more sympathetic when health tourism, which is a form of dependence syndrome, is consciously or unconsciously being promoted by the country’s number one citizen.

New Telegraph wishes to state that the mere act of belonging to international political and economic organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and the Commonwealth does not, in actual sense, confer equality on all countries. Instead, it is the capacity to be less-materially and financially dependent that, indeed, separates some nations from others according them a higher level of respect. Any nation which advertently or inadvertently espouses medical tourism certainly cannot be lumped into such a classification.

We urge the different stakeholders, including reputable professional bodies and trade unions to bring pressure to bear on the members of the political class to do away with medical tourism.

Political office-holders at all levels of governance should be excluded from overseas trips to receive medical attention. The same ban should be extended to members of their nuclear and extended families. This will help free scare foreign exchange expended for such purposes and get them utilized to make the nation’s health sector exceedingly functional.

Such campaigns should be done in indigenous languages and dialects in order to earn the by-in of the populace for maximum results. The powers of the Revenue Mobilization Fiscal and Allocation Commission (RMFAC) to make juicy monetary allocations to the Executive and Legislative branches of government and some public organisations should be challenged and withdrawn.

New Telegraph is confident that with diligence in the application of the above recommendations, medical tourism, which is a shame on our nation, is likely to become history for the good of the people of Nigeria.




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