To curb medical tourism in Nigeria, private sector healthcare service providers in the FCT, have showcased the latest technology and treatments obtainable in their facilities.
The service providers under the aegis of the Guild of Medical Directors (GMD), FCT chapter, showcased the latest technology and treatments for medical condition such as kidney, lung, and heart diseases at an event tagged “What’s New in Abuja.”
Other medical conditions are brain and spinal cord injuries, pediatrics care, physiotherapy including the latest equipment used to investigate and diagnose various health conditions.
The event drew medical practitioners from different areas of medicine including medical directors and heads of health facilities in the territory.
Dr Wisdom Ihejieto, the Chairman of the guild, said the event became necessary to inform and educate the public on improvements in the quality of healthcare services in the country to reduce the rate of medical tourism.
Ihejieto who condemned the increasing rate of medical tourism in Nigeria assured that most of the services obtainable abroad were provided in Nigeria.
“The private sector healthcare service providers recognize the need to improve quality of services available to the public and today’s event is to showcase what new technologies, equipment, and treatments are available in Nigeria in the different fields of medicine.
“Since we have this expertise, there is a need for us to sensitise people and tell them that these services are available here.
“There is an urgent need for us to start the process of reversing medical tourism to Asia, Europe, and other countries of the world.
“This event aims to showcase the expertise we have. We have had people talk about cardiac surgeries, neuro-surgery, and diagnostic centers. All these things are available so why do we have to travel out of the country to benefit from these services.
“Of course, you are traveling out of the country and getting into Europe and finding out that the doctor you are seeing there is a Nigerian,” Ihejieto said.
Dr Iseko Iseko, Group Medical Director, The Limi Hospitals, said that despite efforts by private healthcare providers to improve the quality of healthcare services, medical tourism continues unabated undermining the gains made in the sector.
Iseko said: “To curb medical tourism, it is important for citizens to know the kind of services available here in the country and that these are quality services which are done right.
“This will help citizens to better decide on accessing these services. Cardiocare hospital, a member of The Limi Hospitals, does cardiac catheterization services together with dialysis and kidney transplants.
“Cardiac catheterization means we can operate on the heart even while the patient is awake; they do not need to travel abroad, we can also put in pacemakers and fix heart blocks.
“We do this regularly and safely here in Abuja and this is helping to prevent medical tourism to some extent.
“A lot has been done to improve the health sector and if Nigerians key into this by taking advantage of the multiple services available, very few people will have to travel abroad.”
Dr Ferdinand Umelo, the Medical Director and Consultant Gyenacologist, Cedarcrest Hospitals, Gudu, said that the hospital provides health services in all areas of medicine.
Umelo said that these services are surgery, obstetrics, and gynecology, pediatrics including robust clinical support service, radiology, and physiotherapy.
“We collaborate with local and international cardiologists to provide cardiac catheterization services for the treatment of patients with cardiac pathologies and vascular pathologies.
“We have a COVID-19 molecular laboratory and polio services.
“Most of the latest technological equipment used to diagnose and treat various medical conditions can be found in our hospital.
“Reversing medical tourism in Nigeria should not be left to the hospitals alone to correct. The government and policymakers need to make efforts also towards addressing the problem,” he added.
Umelo noted that providing quality healthcare services in Nigeria was difficult due to the high cost of medical equipment and personnel training.
He called on the government and policymakers to support healthcare providers in the private sector to enable them to provide affordable healthcare services to the public.
“The truth is that providing quality healthcare services in Nigeria is not cheap and the government is not supporting hospitals enough to see that healthcare becomes affordable.
“The government has a huge responsibility to make this happen. For instance, a proper and functioning health insurance scheme will go a long way in making healthcare accessible.
“Also, supporting hospitals in the provision of healthcare services; there are only a few countries that provide interest-free loans to hospitals for them to be able to provide the necessary equipment for patient care.
“So this is again something the government should do, introduce interest-free loans to hospitals so that they can access funds to provide the right technology, necessary equipment, and personnel to provide quality health care to the people.
“A lot of private as well as government hospitals are facing funding challenges and that needs to be addressed if the sector has a chance of improving in terms of access to services, affordability of services, and improving the country’s health indices,” he said.
On his part, Mr Everest Okpara, Chairman, Everight Diagnostic and Laboratory Service Limited, Wuse II, Abuja, attributed the increasing rate of medical tourism in Nigeria to the public’s lack of trust in the health system.
Okpara represented by Mr Aloysius Aleke, Laboratory Manager, Everight Diagnostic and Laboratory Service Limited, said that health practitioners would continue to make efforts towards bridging the gap.
“We are doing our best to continue to try to bridge the gap because our responsibility is to provide the health industry with accurate, reliable, and timely diagnostics services benchmarking world standard.
“The health system in Nigeria has a lot of gaps in terms of quality and availability of healthcare. Nigeria can be a destination medical tourism center if the government works with healthcare service providers in the private sector.
“This is because these service providers are making a tremendous effort to improve the quality of health services available to Nigerians.
“For instance, here, we have a 1.5 Tesla MRI, we provide CT Scan services, PCR solutions, and other latest medical services which are still unavailable in many health facilities.
“Other services available here can detect and address gastrointestinal infections, respiratory infections, sexual health, and non-communicable diseases like gene mutation studies,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that health facilities in the FCT, that attended the event include Wellington Neurosurgery Centre, Brain and Spine, Regions Stroke and Neuroscience Hospital.
Others are Regions Comprehensive Neurorehabilitation Centre, Abbott Rapid Diagnostics, and Zenith Medical and Kidney Centre.
The Guild of Medical Directors is a body of private medical practitioners operating in Nigeria.
Medical tourism also referred to as health tourism is when an individual leaves his or her country of residence to a foreign country in pursuit of medical treatment not available in their country. (NAN)