OVER 5,000 Nigerians travel to India and other countries monthly for medical treatment, the Nigeria Medical Association said on Monday.
As a result, Nigeria loses over $500m annually, with $260m going to India.
The President of NMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, WHO said this at a press briefing to herald the Physicians’ Week with the theme: ‘Prescription Rights—its Abuse and implications for the Health of Nigerians’, regretted the situation.
The NMA challenged political leaders in the country “to stand in the same queue with ordinary Nigerians to seek medical care and conduct health checks in public hospitals”.
Enabulele said, “Years of systemic decay by a lack of political commitment, cancerous levels of corruption and mismanagement of our collective wealth have adversely affected the health sector even such that today, our political leaders seem not to have confidence in health care facilities established by them.
“Available evidence shows that over 5,000 Nigerians visit India and other countries every month for medical tourism with lots of these Nigerians faced with various risks and challenges, including misdiagnosis, legal and ethical issues, exposure to infectious diseases, as well as other complications, particularly post-surgical complications.
“On the average, between $20,000 and $40,000 is said to be spent by a traveller on each health trip. Records also show that over $500m is lost annually by Nigeria on account of medical tourism to countries outside Nigeria. Indeed, it has been shown that India earns over $260m from medical tourism from Nigeria alone. It has been projected that this year India will realise between $1bn and $2bn from a medical tourism market worth over $20bn.”
The NMA boss added, “One of the problems plaguing Nigeria’s health care system is gross abuse of prescription rights facilitated by factors such as poor regulatory and legal framework, poverty and out-of-pocket financing of health care, poor governance, high level illiteracy and a weak health system.
“Whereas the existing National Drug Policy clearly asserts that only licensed medical and dental practitioners are permitted to prescribe drugs and medicines on account of their competence to make diagnosis; in Nigeria, virtually everyone prescribes drugs.”
He called for appropriate legislative, regulatory and educational measures to change the situation.