Nigerians spend 359 billion naira on medical tourism each year

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From Okey Sampson, Umuahia

A medical consultant and nephrologist, Dr Chimezie Okwuonu, said that Nigerians are estimated to spend around 359.2 billion naira each year on medical tourism. According to him, this figure was 19.2 billion naira higher than the 340 billion naira budgeted for health in 2018.

Okwuonu, president of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), in Abia State, revealed it during a one-day symposium to raise awareness about kidney transplants, successes as well as organized challenges and obstacles. by the Renal Unit of the Federal Medical Center, FMC, Umuahia.

Okwuonu said it is cheaper and safer to have a kidney transplant in Nigeria than overseas and challenged the government to provide the necessary equipment as the country already has skilled hands to handle. kidney problems.

He acknowledged that although the cost of kidney transplants in India “is slightly cheaper, the cost of travel, accommodation and other investigations makes it higher.”

He said it costs around $ 442,500 to have a kidney transplant in the United States, but between 5 and 9 million naira in Nigeria.

Highlighting the successes so far in kidney transplantation at FMC Umuahia, Okwuonu said that two of the 11 cases treated since 2017, when the innovation began, have been lost.

The two deaths he said occurred during the post-transplant period due to cardiovascular disease and overwhelming infection.

He further identified diabetes, hypertension, and chronic glomerulonephritis (toxins in the kidneys resulting from herbal concussions or the use of cosmetics containing mercury), as the main causes of kidney disease.

The consultant nephrologist advocated good blood sugar and blood pressure control as well as adequate treatment of kidney infections to prevent kidney-related disease.

He identified inadequate dialysis facilities, high drug costs, cultural and social barriers to organ donation as well as insufficient manpower as the main barriers to kidney transplantation in Nigeria.

He said that with adequate facilities in place for pre- and post-transplant sessions, more kidney patients’ lives would be saved as Nigeria has the expertise to deal with kidney-related issues.

“Nigerian nephrologists have the required expertise and manage their patients well. The surgery success rate is 100% and the patient survival rate after four years is 80% in our center. It’s comparable to what you can get outside the country. ‘

The NMA boss stressed the need for government at all levels to focus more on health care development to end the relentless medical tourism of Nigerians which is swallowing up more than the country’s annual budget allocation for health. .

CMF Umuahia Chief Medical Director Prof. Azubuike Onyebuchi noted that some of the initial challenges experienced when the hospital started kidney transplants in 2017 were gradually being addressed.

He touted the skill and enthusiasm of the hospital’s medical experts to tackle various health challenges.

The Provost, College of Medicine, Gregory University Uturu, Professor I. U Iweha, said early detection and treatment of kidney cases is necessary to avoid complications.

Abia State Government Secretary Chris Ezem praised the medical experts at FMC Umuahia for their achievements in kidney transplantation and management of kidney disease.

He said the hospital has made it easy and inexpensive for locals to access treatment for kidney disease instead of traveling abroad.

The vice-chairman of the State Council of Traditional Chiefs of Abia, Eze Godfrey Onwuka, said he was delighted with the CMF’s progress in managing kidney disease, saying it would help save many lives in the region.


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