Nigeria looking to stem the outflow of medical tourists


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When thinking of an African country, it is hard to picture a destination for getting specialised medical treatment. The news report of any African country does not make for good reading or reactions. A study revealed that an average of 5000 patients went outside the country to get their ailments treated at the more reputable and established centres around the world, but mainly the US, Europe and India. This trend was only among the top echelons who could afford the expense. The average citizen could not and; therefore, have to resort to the best available.

The Nigerian Government took up the issue seriously and in the recent past (2013) entered into an arrangement with Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad to set up a super speciality hospital having more than 1500 beds. The objective is to stem the outflow of patients and in future attract inbound medical traffic. While realising that this would take time, the hospital is well on its way to completion and the feeling is very optimistic.

Ground Reality

Nigeria has the doctors who can perform the intricate surgeries that the rich Nigerian goes abroad for, but the infrastructure necessary to deliver the quality of service and procedures has been lacking. For instance, nearly a Billion was spent of a procedure for a President, when the same treatment and procedure was possible within the country itself. This lack of confidence is what creates the obstacle. This is what the partnership with Apollo hopes to overcome, given time.

Most of the procedures are already available within the country, but the confidence level of the citizenry seems to be wanting. “We have good doctors in Nigeria, what is lacking is the infrastructure. With constant repetition of procedures, doctors can become super specialists,” said Dr. Ufuoma Okotete, Medical Director/CEO, Diamond Helix Medical Assistance, Lagos, a partner in the venture. The platform offered by the venture would give the Nigerian doctor the exposure to excellent practices and a source of information and knowledge to further the quality and range of services offered within Nigeria.

Dr. Hari Prasad, head of the team from Apollo, explained that the model required for Nigeria was not along the lines of the US or the UK but closer to the Indian model where nearly 95% of expenditure is towards clinical care, unlike hospitals in the west where a mere 20-30% is so directed. He feels that once the platform is established, Nigerian doctors who had moved to advanced countries would be attracted back to Nigeria to carry on their professions.

Summary:

Most of the African countries are bearing heavy losses due to the outflow of patients to developing and developed countries across the world. To curb the outflow of patients, Nigeria is looking to strengthen its medical infrastructure to provide quality healthcare services in the region.