Medical, Education Tourism: A Government’s Fad

Medical, Education Tourism: A Government’s Fad

Over six decades of independence, the nation’s health and education sectors still totter on the wings of unbridled inefficiency, heightened by corruption. That is exactly why it’s so-called elite grab every available space and time to seek education and healthcare for themselves and their wards abroad as it is an effortless venture for them.

From vague statistics, the authorities say the country is losing more than $1 billion annually to medical tourism as tens of thousands of Nigerians travel abroad in search of treatment that guarantees basic safety. Nigeria’s Health Ministry says it is building several world-class health centers to address the issue, but not even the country’s president seems to trust health care systems in Nigeria.

Health officials and some medical professionals argue that good care is available in the country but at private clinics. That position is a good subject for further scrutiny.

Besides the healthcare sector, the education sector presents no better picture as the battered system occasioned by poor funding, incessant strikes among others have left the sector prostrate, thus making the noveau riche look offshore to get their learning at various levels. Added to these woes is the attendant brain drain which has seen many professionals seek greener pastures in foreign lands. What that presents is a mix of complex negativities which has been with us for a long time, even preceded the current administration.

In April 2001, Nigeria and four other African Union countries reportedly met and pledged to target at least 15% of their annual budget for health care. Many years after, Nigeria remains far from reaching the goal and ranks at the bottom of global health surveys.

To provide access to high-quality care, authorities plan to build six new medical centers across the country, government sources had said prior to this wave of medical tourism blowing across the country.

“These centers of excellence are supposed to deliver those cares, those interventions that people would naturally go outside to seek. Things like cancer treatment, brain tumors, brain surgeries, and fine surgery interventions”. AljazirahNigeria is uncertain if this promise has been met by the FG.

It is disapproving that even with the lofty ideals and unfettered access to the best health care in Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari like many other prominent Nigerians have continued to flock foreign countries to seek medical attention. Apart from several trips to Britain for medical care in his first term, Buhari has just embarked on another trip to London to attend to his health. It is the sixth time the President would be in the United Kingdom for medical purposes since assuming office in 2015.

The president’s trip has expectedly elicited reactions from Nigerians over the deplorable state of healthcare system with experts saying the country could be losing more than N576 billion ($1.2 billion) yearly to medical tourism.

Nigerians have for decades suffered from an inadequately funded healthcare system, squalid clinics and hospitals, and poorly paid and overworked healthcare workers who frequently move abroad for employment. There are at least 8,178 medical doctors of Nigerian origin working in the U.K., according to data on the U.K. General Medical Council website. The exodus has worsened healthcare in a country that has one doctor for every 5,000 people, according to the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA).

AljazirahNigeria is concerned that President Buhari had in 2015 promised to stop medical tourism and save the nation scarce foreign exchange if elected president. In fact, he promised to ban elected government officials from foreign medical trips after he condemned the millions of dollars expended on medical tourism. All that has become history as we are yet to experience the much touted transformation.

With the nation’s status and its long independence, we posit that it is dishonourable for our leaders to still renege on their promise to establish a sound healthcare and educational system that would stand the test of time.  

Leaders over time have paid lip service to developing these vital sectors and we see this as unpatriotic and diminishing of our national pride. Nigeria ought to be the tourism centre for most African countries against what is obtainable today.

We call for a national emergency in the health and education sectors in order to stem the tide of this ‘plunder’ of our commonwealth. These sectors deserve more than a mere annual ritual of annual budgets which do not relate with the reality on ground.

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Education TourismMedical tourism