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Osinbajo’s dream for Nigeria as medical tourist destination

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo during the inauguration recently of a state-of-the-art health facility in Lagos, expressed optimism that with more investments in health sector, Nigeria could become a destination of choice for medical tourists even from developed countries. Muritala Ayinla writes

The trend in the Nigerian health sector calls for immediate reforms to restore the confidence in the sector. The nation’s health system is faced with brain drain is which is responsible for a dramatic reduction in the number of doctors in the country. Nigeria is one of the three leading African sources of foreign-born physicians, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Nearly on daily basis Nigerian doctors leave the shore of the country for a greener pastures abroad. As those still in the public and private facilities are waiting for opportunity to leave the country, those in the medical schools also ambitious of practicing in foreign country. Many leave immediately after graduation, others work for a while to gather enough resources to enable them leave with their families.

They usually leave for a number of reasons. While some leave the country to pursue international residency training. Most in this category usually don’t return to the country. They prefer to work where their newly acquired skills can be put to better use. Other jostle for foreign job if they fail to find a job or space for residency training. A larger percentage of he medical experts opt for foreign job due to what they described as for poor welfare, poor pay and unattractive working conditions which often make them to embark on industrial actions. Most Nigerians, especially the privileged travel abroad for their medical needs. The usual destinations are Europe, North America and Asia. And ordinary citizens spend over USD$1 billion annually on what’s become known as medical tourism.

Nigeria is one of African countries listed among the 20 top exporters of physicians in 2004, with a loss of 5 499 doctors up from 1 519 in 1991. Regardless of the reason for the brain drain, what is certain is that the exodus has led to a drop in the quality of health care service due to the absence of skilled personnel and further made most Nigerians to become medical tourists across the globe. But in what could be described a sign of possible begining of change of the trend in the health sector, last Friday, accompanied by Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dapo Abiodun of Lagos and Ogun respectively commissioned Reddington Hospital’s new state-of-the-art health facility in Lagos.

They were joined by the Centralized Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele; the Managing Directors of the Bank of Industry – Olukayode Pitan and Access Bank – Herbert Wigwe, and Dr. Yemi Onabowale, President and CEO of Redington Hospitals, among others. Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, Osinbajo said that Nigeria is not just a country that has world-class talent, world-class ideas and world-class execution of ideas, with more investments in its health sector, it will also make the country a destination of choice for medical tourists even from developed countries. At the event which paraded a collection of world class medical experts and prominent Nigerians, Osinbajo said that that the Duchess International Hospital, a new facility under the Reddington Hospitals group was symbol of hope for the country in spite of the trend. According to the Vice-President, the opening of the new hospital is a cause for celebration firstly because it shows that “we have all it takes to become the place of choice for even medical tourists from developed countries looking to jump long queues for specialised procedures at home or simply shopping for more affordable fees for first class healthcare.”

Secondly, he said: “We have by far the largest number of middle- to low-income communities and individuals in sub–Saharan Africa who require affordable, high-quality healthcare.” The Vice-President added that the establishment of such facilities would not only further provide more Nigerians with excellent healthcare solutions, but it would also open more opportunities to the country’s high quality medical personnel. “With investments like this seeking high quality medical personnel, we can even reverse the trend of doctors voting with their feet.

“The reasons for voting with their feet are obvious: better remuneration, better facilities. But again, only serious private sector investment in high quality healthcare services offering top compensation for its personnel could possibly create an attractive proposition to reverse the trend,” the Vice President said.

As the VP officially commissioned the facility, he noted that it was comparable to the best hospitals in the world both in medical and aesthetic standards. “This hospital has bragging rights. It comes from the Reddington family, a clinical health brand that has earned a strong reputation for high standards in healthcare, top notch personnel, including many highly reputed Nigerian doctors in diaspora and best of all, it is all Nigerian,” Prof. Osinbajo said. He described the event as an occasion that celebrates “the convergence of so many possibilities, and such great promise.

I am extremely proud to be a part of this phenomenal achievement and the great future that it portends for health care services in Nigeria. “It is, therefore, my great pleasure and privilege to officially commission the Duchess International Hospital to the glory of God and for the benefit of Nigerians and all those who may seek excellent healthcare from anywhere in the world.” According to the Hospital management, the mission of the hospital “is to reverse medical tourism by delivering the highest standards of care, using the most advanced technology and treatments to give you the fastest, most convenient access to the best medical expertise available anywhere in the world.”

 

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