Nigerians who travel abroad for medical services can stay and be
treated at home, US$200 million, a substantial sum compared to the
national health budget, could be saved annually.
This estimate is in the latest national economic plan from minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.But the document “Creating jobs: A short to medium-term agenda,” does not give a breakdown of the amount.
The minister explains that since good health contributed to economic growth, there is a need for the federal government to increase investment in the sector. She argues that poor health reduces the efficiency and output of workers, adding that one of the priority areas of the government will be finding ways to address the challenges of the sector, “Good health contributes to economic growth and poor health reduces workforce efficiency and output. Nigeria can save $200 million from medical services abroad.” She also emphasizes that the health sector has potential for job creation.
New president Goodluck Jonathan at the 50th anniversary of the Nigerian Medical Association
, said that the federal government is no longer prepared to pay for officials or politicians to have medical treatment in foreign countries as this practice had over recent years led to loss of the nation’s scarce foreign exchange through unnecessary and overly expensive trips abroad by officials seeking medical care. The money saved will be channelled into developing local hospitals to international standards.
The House of Representatives has recently decried the culture of affluence among Nigerians seeking medical services overseas. It said the trend is not only detrimental to the improvement of health care services locally, but a drain on the nation’s scarce resources. It, therefore, tasked the Federal Ministry of Health
to elevate the quality of medical services available in local health institutions and discourage what it said had now become medical tourism by the Nigerian elite.
Anyone seeking local or national office, or expecting to do business with the government, is now going to have to think very carefully before even using their own money to pay for foreign treatment; it could damage their prospects.
In the past, government officials have given support and encouragement to medical tourism agencies sending Nigerians to South Africa and India for treatment. The new stance from the top changes that.
If the politicians keep their promises, and Nigeria is able to use the income from natural products to fund good local hospitals, the ban on official medical tourism and gentle persuasion on better off locals, could trickle down to all those who go to another country for treatment.