The rate at which Nigerians travel abroad for medical care is not only alarming but worrisome as some medical professionals have put it, the norm is gradually killing the health sector in Nigeria. This trend unfortunately has had its consequences as most people believe that quality health care only exist outside the shores of this country, so those who can afford it travel out to seek it.
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Findings revealed that Nigerians spend approximately N180 billion annually on foreign medical trips. Most of such funds and resources find their way to developed nations and India, which would have been asset in rehabilitating the health sector.
The minister of health, Professor Christain Onyebuchi Chukwu, on numerous occasion has said that the belief that no quality care exist in Nigeria is quite unfortunate as most hospitals have been revamped to provide care.
According to him, though a lot remains to be improved, it cannot be done by the government alone; the private sector needs to collaborate with government to improve the quality of care in hospital. But this collaboration seems to have taken another dimension, as professionals working in hospitals have turned themselves to travel agents sending patients abroad all for a token to laden their pockets, therefore increasing the numbers of Nigerians that travel for medical care abroad at the expense of the country.
Meanwhile, foreign hospitals rush to Nigeria to scout for patients to take abroad.
One has even decided to build a hospital here to cater for Nigerians to reduce the stress of visa and travel arrangement. Primus Specialist Hospital, solely owned and managed by Indians, in Abuja, established two years ago. However, what could have been a blessing for the masses is under attack for using quacks in their hospital.
As tension and confusion continue to build about the true situation of things in the hospital, some patients gathered together at the hospital to share their experiences and disperse claims that quacks work there, speaking against the injustices done to the hospital by some “unscrupulous” Nigerians trying to destroy the good works of the hospital.
One of the client of the hospital, Mallam Mahmud Jega, the Deputy Editor-In-Chief of the Daily Trust newspapers said it is unfortunate that people are spreading such rumour about the hospital.
His words, "They helped saved my child’s life, after I have roamed about a lot of hospitals both in Kaduna and Abuja which could not diagnose her symptoms or ailment.
"But a friend of mine told me about Primus hospital, and after they ran series of tests on her, they told me she had asthma. Can you imagine, the poor lad was treated for TB."
Chief Emeke Nwosu, a construction engineer, ignored the presence of the audience and opened his tummy to show how he lost pounds of flesh after he survived a stroke.
A 35-year-old Scholar Aniboeze also showed the mark on her neck to reveal where she was operated of goiter
"This is not a time to be shy, it is a time for you to defend what you believe in," Nwosu said. "I would have died if not for the help of the doctors here.
"I was initially admitted at the National Hospital Abuja, when I had a stroke but a doctor there wanted to kill me. She advised that I could arrange for my treatment abroad if I could pay her $350,000 (N54.6 million). I didn’t have the money, and later somebody advised us to come to Primus hospital.
"Because I couldn’t raise the money to give the woman, she went around telling everybody that my brother took away her patient and that the hospital we had gone to is not a good one.
"These are the people spreading fake rumour about this hospital. They want to bring down the name of the hospital so that they can continue with the kind of business they are using patients for."
"These allegations are not true", said Mrs. Fatima Muhammadu Sanni, the Chairman of Association of Market Women in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
"I had my hips operated on in this hospital after I fell, and I have been well and strong. I would have travelled and gotten the hip fixed in the United States, for I have a son who is a doctor practicing in one of the hospitals, but I decided to do it here based on the recommendation of my son."
She said the rumour of quack doctors in the hospital had been conceived and spread by people that were agents of foreign hospitals in Nigeria, who encourage Nigerians to go for treatment abroad because of the financial gain they could benefit from such trips.
"Such people are not happy that Primus Hospital is in Nigeria, because they are used to referring people to hospitals abroad and get paid," she said. "They are dupes. They collect money from patients in the name of arranging travel documents for them. Many of them are health professionals in government hospitals."
She said over 6,000 market women in Abuja have benefited from free medical services from the hospital since inception.
"Some of them with critical cases were admitted in the hospital and treated, and those that required operations were operated on successfully. Today they are going about their normal business, without any complain. If the doctors that have treated them were quacks, will they be well today?" she queried.
Mrs. Aniboeze, the patient who was operated of goiter, said she was advised not to come to Primus Hospital for the operation because it is full of quack doctors and obsolete equipment.
"So I ignored all the allegations against Primus, and I came here, and Dr. Jar explained all the procedure of the operation to me and gave me assurance. I told him I don’t want to die, because I was scared based on the information I have heard about the hospital; but he told me that my safety was his safety, and that I was going to be alive and well.
"I proceeded with the operation and today, thank God, I am alive and well. And I discovered that the rumour about the hospital is not true. You have to visit the hospital for you to know what is happening there."
Earlier, the Chairman, House of Representative Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Albert Tanimu, described as "sad" the rumour going around about the hospital.
"I think this hospital is a blessing for Nigeria," he said. "If we cannot encourage them, we should not bring them down. It has saved many people like me the cost and stress traveling abroad for medical treatment.
"I have the money to travel abroad for treatment, but I decided to come for total hip replacement here, and it was done perfectly. We are discouraging people to travel abroad for medical treatments, so we also have to live by example. The hospital is comparable to any specialist hospital abroad, and that is why many members of the National Assembly patronize them," he added.
A civil servant, Kal Samuel, who had his shoulder fixed at the hospital, said the "hospital might just be victim of competition and hostile environment arising also from the Indian style of refusing to play game the Nigerian way".
Primus Hospital commenced operation in April 2011, after it entered into an agreement with the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) based on Public Private Partnership (PPP). The idea was to build a complete five-star international hospital, it was then decided that since FCDA had an existing facility, it was better to contract it through the PPP model. FCDA authority leased 40% of the health facility, leading to the commencement of work. And after formalities, Primus Hospital commenced operation.