The huge exodus of Nigerian patients seeking quality healthcare solutions in India and other countries has forced the Nigerian health minister and the concerned officials to stress seriously on healthcare infrastructure development of the country along with extensive marketing of the skills and facilities. Every year Nigeria loses 9-11 million domestic patients to Indian medical tourism sector, which the Health Minister Prof. Issac Adewole conceives as the outcome of a full-fledged well organized racket operation. Save One Million Lives Programme- for Results (SOML P for R) with proper disbursal of $500m grant from World Bank is one such notable effort that hopes to bring about a dramatic change in women and child-healthcare in Nigeria.
Sorry state of Nigerian healthcare
The healthcare scenario in Nigeria is not all that encouraging with the inherent socio-economic factor contributing highly. The infrastructure is weak, and that is a prime reason for medical professionals in the country moving out in quest for greener pastures abroad. The system is a simultaneous responsibility of the three tiers of administrative wings running the country’s affairs. Here the private players have a substantial control over provision of healthcare services. They are the chief deciding factors for the proper delivery of medical services to consumers most of whom fall on the threshold of poverty level.
Lack of education and proper hygiene has somehow fuelled the already existing sorry state of affairs in the domain of healthcare services. People do not rely on the primary health care centers (PHC) and opt for the highest degree of treatment even to treat simple ailments. This has gradually eroded the objective and importance of PHCs almost rendering them defunct.
Other issues plaguing the Nigerian healthcare system
- The country has to import 80% of the important drugs. Faking and adulteration worsen the situation.
- Even if the Nigerian specialists are capable of treating a complex ailment, they refrain from doing it. Instead, they refer to foreign specialists. This is a serious deterrent that undermines the country’s capacity and creates stumbling blocks for further advancement as well.
- The country is the highest contributor of mother-to-child HIV transmission. Moreover, high percentage of child malnutrition and higher number of mother-child death cases project an ill-managed healthcare system. The urban dwellers are able to access quality medical services, but for the rural population the less said the better.
Encashing the existent healthcare service
It is quite likely that the racket operation will be in full swing. According to the health minister’s opinion, a handsome commission is paid to Nigerian medical specialists and officials for every 4-5 referrals to Indian medical tourism. That seriously violates the ethics and objective of medical tourism.
The good news is that the Nigerian minister of Health Professor Isaac Adewole is bent on stopping the migration of Nigerian medical talents and a tendency among consumers to go abroad seeking healthcare solutions.
Steps being initiated are as follows:
- There is a forceful drive to advertise medical facilities and the availability of qualified medical professionals within the country itself so that the patients can have all the answers to their problems at home instead of going abroad.
- A scheme is underway for setting up Bank of Health establishing technical working groups where timelines are met. The private sector would be operating as a third natural healthcare provider which would require the approval of the highest administrative authority, the president.
- The health minister has also given his words to set up a swift creation of an amended NHIS Act making health insurance coverage mandatory.
- He has also promised to revamp seven teaching hospitals in the coming year and strengthening them with enough qualified manpower, equipments and infrastructural support.
- There is a plan to upgrade 10000 Public Health Centers too.
- There is an announcement for cash reward for the state of the country that excels in the best maternal care and child healthcare services. The amount of the reward is 1.5 million USD.
The determination of the Nigerian minister to improve the healthcare atmosphere in the country would surely bear rich fruits in the near future. For achieving his dreams, he is holding several consultations with the leaders of the private sector. Several high level conferences are held in the capital Lagos and other forums centering on country’s healthcare scenario. The objective is to bring out an overall improvement in the system.
While the minister has one eye fixed on healthcare development schemes, the other eye is focused on those unscrupulous operators active in the market promising alternate solutions at this critical hour. Admitting the fact, the country is yet to come up with the best solutions in some areas of critical healthcare, Prof. Adewole asserts that referring domestic patients to India or other countries should be done only through the chief medical officer after a thorough screening and judgment that it is an absolute necessity, and the country does not have suitable infrastructure to provide the required standard of medical support. He realized that such unethical practices could be eradicated only if the country comes up with a better healthcare infrastructure accessible and affordable to all.