Not so long ago, our well-to-do countrymen sought medical attention abroad, not minding the cost or the level of treatment. They say, "Health is wealth," after all. However, as Nigeria's Health Minister Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu notes, this "medical tourism" is not so welcome anymore. The majority of "medical tourists" had been treated in private hospitals, not the foreign government-established, reputable ones. Having this in mind, the Federal Government deviced strategies to reduce the level of outward medical tourism and thus to transform the health sector.
Nigerians are in need of various specialized hospitals which would cater for their health needs. The present Government set up a ministerial committee for underlocking private sector potentials for the establishment of world class specialist hospital and high-end diagnostic centres here in Nigeria.
Also, the decision to have a transformed public-private sector driven health sector in Nigeria is informed by a need to curtail the capital flight and "brain-drain", which an underdeveloped health sector portends for the country.
Itemising the Government's actions to transform the health sector, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu disclosed that the Federal Government commissioned and rehabilitated some medical projects like the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Kaduna and Calabar, new respiratory intensive care unit at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, among others.
Sickle-cell anaemia patients in the country can now heave a sigh of relief as the University of Benin Teaching Hospital recorded a breakthrough recently in the successful infusion of stem cells into a sickle cell anaemic patient.
A dedicated ward for haematology and haematic-oncology has been opened at University of Benin Teaching Hospital.
The disastrous sickness – cancer -- has been rampaging everywhere to the extent that even children now suffer from it. The truth in the saying that prevention is better than cure possibly informed why the Ministry of Health established screening centres for cancer especially in the areas of breast, cervix, and prostate. The centres for this screening are Federal medical centres in Gusau, Keffi, Ebute-Metta, Portharcourt, Abakaliki and Bauchi.
One of the reasons why Nigerians seek medical attention outside the country is their quest to treat kidney or renal failures which, at most times, require transplanting – a surgical procedure performed to replace a diseased kidney with a healthy one from a donor. Today, we are singing a new song as it is possible to have transplants done in Nigeria. There are centres that have the capability to do renal transplanting and they include amongst others, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital and a private Hospital, St Nicolas in Lagos. It was in the public domain that these three hospitals successfully carried out kidney transplants in 2012.
Many of Nigeria's healthcare facilities have been upgraded to international centres of excellence. The Federal Medical Centre at Gombe as well as Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, have commenced laparoscopic surgery – that is, the performance of surgical procedures with the assistance of a video-camera and several thin instruments.
The Ministry of Health has introduced the use of CCTV-assisted monitoring gadgets at University of Benin Teaching Hospital in the burns and plastic surgery intensive care unit.
The centre of excellence for heart disease at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital has been refurbished and it has resumed open heart surgery after eight years. In Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, microsurgery of the brain is now being conducted. Total knee and hip replacement can be done at our orthopaedic hospitals in Enugu and Igbobi, Lagos State, the Federal Medical Centre Yenagoa and University of Benin Teaching Hospital.
In the North, a lot of children and adults who were being ravaged by polio meningitis have got attention as government has doubled the funding of polio eradication activities to N4.7 Billion in 2013, and a further commitment of N2.5 billion.