The Director General of the Voice of Nigeria has decried the enormous amount of money Nigerians spend on medical tourism in other countries.
He made this known on Thursday in an opening remark at the commencement of a two-day national health dialogue organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ, the Project for Advocacy in Child and Family Health, PACFaH, and the Project Pink Blue.
The event held at the Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja.
The health dialogue was chaired by the vice president, and hosted by the Minister for Health, Isaac Adewole.
The Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Muhammadu Sanusi II; acting Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance scheme, Attahiru Ibrahim; the DG of the National Agency for the Control of Aids, NACA, Sani Aliyu; the Executive Director, Nigeria Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, were among keynote speakers at the health dialogue.
In his speech, Mr. Okechukwu said medical tourism has cost Nigeria billions of dollars.
“We want to stop that trend because it is draining our reserves,” he said.
Although Mr. Okechukwu represented Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the event, he later contacted PREMIUM TIMES to say the quote represents his personal opinion.
Thousands of Nigerians travel abroad each year to seek medical treatment as the nation’s health care system remains poorly funded.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday returned from London after nearly four months of medical leave.
The administration has not disclosed the president’s condition or how much is spent treating him, but analysts estimate Nigeria spends several millions of naira for the president’s healthcare abroad.
Mr. Okechukwu said healthcare for Nigerians is important to the Buhari administration.
He explained that the president was interested in health issues, but said poverty was also a major issue to look at.
He urged the states to also join in so as to ensure universal health coverage in the country.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The statements and the quote in the report were initially credited to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who was invited for the event and was represented by Mr. Okechukwu. The VON Director General, however, contacted PREMIUM TIMES after the event to say though he represented Mr. Osinbajo at the event, the views expressed were his. “While I stood in for the Vice President at the said event, I also did express my own views at the said seminar, including those regarding the Medical Tourism and the attendant concerns and challenges,” he said.
The story has therefore been edited to reflect the views as Mr. Okechukwu’s.