Why Nigerians should emulate Osinbajo

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Professor Yemi Osinbajo

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, did what no public officer in his capacity had ever done as far as Nigerians remember; a step that deserves to be celebrated as reported by ELEOJO IDACHABA.

Nigerians love anything “foreign”, regardless of the financial implications. This taste ranges from the frantic quest for exotic cars to the use of communication accessories/cell phones, study abroad, foreign outfits/suites and music; the list is endless. In a nutshell, it is considered a status symbol.

Added to this is the unquenchable thirst for medical tourism in which many Nigerians are moving en masse to overseas countries to seek cures for ailments that can usually be treated even at the primary health care level in the country.

In recent times, this phenomenon has become so embarrassing for the image of the country due to the implication of the costs in foreign currency necessary to undertake such trips at the expense of the local currency whose value had been on a downward trend these last time.

On that note, it may be instructive to say that current former Senate Speaker Ike Ekweremadu is going through a UK detention center for his choice of a London hospital for the child’s kidney transplant would normally have been avoided if this unquenchable thirst for all that was “foreign” had long since been suppressed. Indeed, in Nigeria today, many medical institutions can perform a successful ordinary kidney transplant rather than attending a UK hospital where a survey has shown that 20% of doctors in these countries are Nigerians.

This is why Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s recent bold decision to see a doctor for his injured knees at a private hospital in Lagos has garnered much praise and deserves emulation.

By this action, Osinbajo has proven that in many offshoots, Nigerian hospitals and their practitioners are as good as other hospitals and their colleagues anywhere in the world. His step has abandoned the common but unpopular elitist game of seeking medical tourism abroad.

The successful operation also shows that instead of wasting public funds on medical tourism which in its entirety is ego-boosting, local hospitals can actually handle some of these ailments. This takes into account the huge amount allocated each year to secondary, tertiary, specialist and university hospitals in the country.

Lamenting this sheer nonsense, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, recently noted that “Medical and educational tourism combined drains $10 billion from the country every year”. If that’s not a concern for anyone, what else could be!

Apart from Senator Ekweremadu who is going through what can be likened to the proverbial experimental guinea pig, having spent days in detention abroad, other prominent politicians, especially presidential aspirants, are also avoiding treatment in the country but doing commuting abroad for medical attention as if they were traveling in their backyard.

Authentic desire for change

Health insurance specialist Olatunde Ige noted that wealthy Nigerians are unwilling to run the country’s medical infrastructure. “What is appalling is that in almost every country in the world that these rich people and these politicians go to, medical experts from Nigeria are largely in charge of these hospitals. They just don’t want an environment perfect where everything works to justify their frequent overseas commute,” he told Blueprint Weekend.

NMA, the lamentations of the PSN

Medical tourism is a colossal financial drain on the country’s finances which the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) corroborated Emefiele’s views when it said a whopping $1 billion is spent on it every year. .

According to the NMA, for reasons known to all in Nigeria, only 40,000 of the 80,000 doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) practice locally while the rest work outside the country where privileged Nigerians travel. for medical tourism.

Furthermore, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) in 2019 revealed that 5,000 of the 30,000 registered pharmacists in the country worked overseas. However, this is not a surprise as most public health facilities remain in a dilapidated state with poor equipment and unattractive remuneration.

lead by example

Responding to the example of Osinbajo, a doctor, Dr Tochukwu Moghalu, said that by opting for local medical care, the vice president brushed aside all bad advice from multiple quarters for him to travel to India. outside the country, as this is the tradition of most public services. office holders in his position whenever they fall ill.

“Nigeria’s callous and indulgent political class, exemplified by key players in the current administration, should borrow a leaf from Professor Osinbajo who despite his entitlement has looked the other way to show that given the conducive environment, any marvel that other countries can do in the world of drugs, Nigeria can do better. This is what many privileged officials lack,” he said.

He added that this action saved the country from using the scarce foreign currencies for its treatment abroad when ordinarily no one blinked considering his position as the number two citizen who went unnoticed. for such frivolities in the past. .

Private hospitals

According to Dr Essiet Asuquo of Ryne Ilupeju Hospital in Lagos, medical tourism has become a status symbol for many who can afford the luxury of traveling abroad. Otherwise, there is a lot of investment in private hospitals which would normally discourage seeking medical care abroad.

“You would be interested to know that many private hospitals in the country are well equipped to deal with many major and minor ailments as their concepts are drawn from abroad. Even in the hospital where the vice president was treated, the concept was taken from abroad, and the official commissioning was carried out by Osinbajo himself. Do you think such a center does not have facilities to treat conditions such as kidney transplant, cancer and any fatal disease? Politicians and government officials have simply chosen to avoid what we have in the country. That’s why they are only interested in upgrading infrastructure,” he said.

Politics with health

Apart from a few states in the country, most of the frontline states boast of having robust medical centers. The survey shows that whenever the governors of these states are given the opportunity to present their scorecards, they are quick to flaunt their lofty investments in healthcare. Surprisingly, however, whenever any of them or their relatives need medical attention, they prefer overseas hospitals. For example, in Akwa Ibom State, former governor, now head of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Godswill Akpabio, conceptualized a state-of-the-art medical center codenamed 20th Century Hospital in Uyo.

This reporter might recall the huge amount spent on the project which cost the people of Akwa Ibom billions of naira. It was to be, according to this administration, the best reference center in the country. Amazingly, nearly eight years after this administration left, the natives are now wondering whether or not they were hypnotized into believing what the Akpabio administration told them. In a reaction, Daniel Udoh, a native who resides in Abuja, said even Akpabio’s administration knew the project would end up being one of those elephant projects in the country.

He said, “Remember that the government of Akpabio told everyone that they were ending medical tourism in Nigeria with this hospital, but soon after they left the government residence in Uyo and moved to Abuja, he was involved in an accident near the Bolingo hotel. For a minor accident that would have been treated at the National Hospital, was he not transported abroad? Why didn’t he go to the state-of-the-art referral hospital he built in Uyo but fly straight to treatment overseas? They know that whenever they want to deceive ordinary people, they come up with plans that they cannot achieve. If the project was conceived with sincere intention, why hasn’t it been completed since?

In all of these cases, the general consensus is that there should be an integrated approach to mending the broken wall of our medical system to defeat medical tourism. To this extent, governments at all levels should intentionally take steps to prohibit all serving public office holders from traveling abroad for medical tourism. This is the only way local public health institutions can function.

According to Dr Asuquo, “All public tertiary health facilities should in particular become compulsory referral centers in the country on which senior officials would rely not to run in search of medical care readily available in the country”.

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