President Muhammadu Buhari has named the poor attitude of health workers across Nigeria as a major reason for the growing culture of Nigerians seeking medical care outside the country.
The president stated this Tuesday at the second National Health Summit of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the 25th Triennial Conference of the Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA).
The summit is being held between November 4 and 8 in Abuja.
Mr Buhari who is currently in the UK for a two-week ‘private visit’ was the special guest billed to declare the event open. He was, however, represented by the health minister, Osagie Ehanire.
Superintending broken system
The minister said many Nigerians have lost confidence in the country’s health system because of the poor service delivery in Nigerian hospitals.
“If we must be honest to ourselves, we must admit that even more than lack of equipment and medical technical expertise, poor housekeeping and sanitation and often poor and disrespectful attitude of health workers and also a perceived lack of confidentiality are damaging the image and reputation of the health system and also the public confidence in it,” the official explained.
“There is no doubt that this loss of confidence in our hospitals is the father of medical tourism,” he noted.
The minister said only a change of mindset can reverse the trend.
“Why is Nigeria losing billions of naira to medical tourism?” asked former Nigerian head of state, Yakubu Gowon, in his opening remark as the chairman of the summit.
Thousands of Nigerians travel abroad each year to seek medical treatment as the nation’s health care system remains dogged with multiple challenges.
Former Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, had in 2017 estimated that Nigeria was losing N175 billion annually to medical tourism.
Also in 2017, PREMIUM TIMES reported how South Africa’s Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, scolded African leaders seeking medical care away from the continent, saying the culture has become a major drain on their countries $ health expenditure.
President Buhari’s current ‘private visit’ to the United Kingdom is one of his numerous trips to the European Country.
Many believe the President frequently travels to see his doctors in the UK where he spent several months in his first term in office receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
Themed “patient-centred care”, the doctor’s summit is coming amidst growing concern about poor treatment of patients resulting in inadequate health outcomes.
The health minister described the theme as pertinent because, “the patient is at the centre of all healthcare activities and there is no greater measure of the quality of healthcare anywhere than the priority accorded the patient at every level of treatment. The patient must be accorded full confidentiality and due respect…
“The care of the patient also envisages that the patient must have access to information and education regarding his illness to enable him participate in making informed decision. That means he must also be kept updated on nature, extent of possible complications of treatment. Patient dignity even in the most vulnerable state must remain sacrosanct.”
At least, 67 speakers will speak in the course of the event to highlight the negligence that patients suffer in the health sector.
During a pre-event press briefing on Monday, the NMA President, Francis Faduyile, attributed cases of medical negligence in Nigerian hospitals to a “total systemic failure” in the health sector.
“It’s the total systemic failure that we have been decrying. We don’t have enough personnel; we don’t have enough equipment and the government does not have enough health facilities,” Mr Faduyile said.