The Nigeria Medical Association has said the country has very competent Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialists who can treat President Mr. Muhammadu Buhari’s ear infection.
The general secretary of the association, Tanko Sununu, said there are competent ENT surgeons who can take care of the president’s recurring ear trouble.
He spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday following public outrage over Mr. Buhari’s latest trip to the United Kingdom to treat an ear infection, after his administration had banned medical travels for public office holders except in cases that cannot be handled in Nigeria.
Mr. Sununu however said that the medical body could not take a definitive position regarding the president’s decision to travel until it received details of the president’s health.
Mr. Sununu had told PREMIUM TIMES early Monday that the NMA was in touch with the president’s personal physician to get details, but later spoke again to the newspaper in the evening saying the association was yet to get required details.
“In Nigeria, we have very competent ENT surgeons in the country. We have a lot of competent ENT surgeons throughout the federation,” Mr. Sununu said in a telephone interview.
“Up till now we haven’t gotten the details from the president’s physician. Officially at the moment, we cannot comment on whether the president’s trip was right or wrong based on the fact that we don’t know the extent of the condition. We are made to understand that they had conversations with Nigeria’s ENT surgeons along with his personal physician. So, I don’t know if it is the assessment of the ENT surgeon that warranted him going out for further evaluation and treatment.”
Mr. Sununu explained that the president couldn’t seek treatment without a referral from a physician in Nigeria.
“You can never do away with the referral in medicine. Just like I said in the morning, we only make official pronouncements based on the information that is available to us,” he said. “We don’t want to make a hasty judgment on what we don’t have rightful information about. Health is an issue that has to be devoid of political inclination. We want to base our judgment on the facts.”
But Osahon Enabulele, vice president of the Commonwealth Medical Association said Mr. Buhari’s foreign medical trip to London is a “tragic blot on Nigeria’s collective professional and national image”.
In a statement to PREMIUM TIMES, he said the latest foreign medical trip “flies in the face of the Federal Government’s earlier declaration of her resolve to halt the embarrassing phenomenon of outward medical tourism, which as at the end of 2013 had led to a humongous capital flight of about one billion dollars, particularly from expenses incurred by political and public office holders and their accompanying aides”.
Describing most of the medical foreign trips as unnecessary, Mr. Enabulele said they were financed with tax payers’ resources.
“Undoubtedly, Mr. President has lost a golden opportunity to assert his change mantra through a clear demonstration of leadership by example, by staying back to receive medical treatment in Nigeria and thereby inspiring confidence in Nigeria’s health sector which currently boasts of medical experts that favourably compare with medical experts anywhere in the world, if not even better.
“It is on record that most public and political office holders who seek foreign medical care abroad are handled by Nigerian trained doctors in foreign lands (particularly in the United Kingdom which has over 3000 Nigerian trained medical doctors, United States of America with over 5000 Nigerian trained medical doctors, amongst other foreign countries), most of whom left the shores of Nigeria on account of government’s perennial failure to address the various push and pull factors which have consistently driven this yearly brain drain phenomenon in Nigeria.
“Available records show that last year (2015) alone, 637 medical doctors emigrated due largely to poor working conditions and health facilities, insecurity, unpredictable and poor funding of Residency Training Programme, uncompetitive wages and job dissatisfaction.
“Without prejudice to the expert recommendation of Mr. President’s Personal Physician and the ENT specialist said to have examined and treated Mr. President in Abuja, I consider it a national shame of immense proportions that Mr. President had to be recommended for foreign medical care/re-evaluation despite the presence of over 250 ENT specialists (and professors) in Nigeria, as well as a National Ear Centre located in Kaduna state,” Mr. Enabulele stated.
Mr. Enabulele however advised the president to explore any of the following options:
(1) Urgently invite a consortium of Nigerian trained ENT specialists in Nigeria to Abuja to re-evaluate and treat him;
(2) If it is determined that the medical expertise is not available in Nigeria (and I doubt this), any identified Nigerian trained ENT specialist practicing anywhere in the world should be invited to Abuja, Nigeria, for the sole purpose of re-evaluating and treating Mr. President;
(3) If it is a case where the health facilities/equipment are unavailable (and this is a possibility) then Mr. President should have used his current medical situation, though unfortunate, to commence the Federal Government’s plan to re-equip Nigerian hospitals with modern state-of-the art health facilities, by ordering for the needed medical equipment to enable the locally available Nigerian trained ENT specialists to attend to him, and thereafter use same facilities to attend to other Nigerians with similar conditions.
“There are so many benefits that can accrue to Nigeria if Mr. President stays back in Nigeria to receive medical treatment and explores the above stated options. Indeed, it will be a win-win situation for Nigeria as Mr. President will not only get managed with the imported medical facilities and expertise (if indeed needed); he would save Nigeria (currently going through a socio-economic turmoil) the capital flight that would result from his planned foreign medical trip. It will also help to improve the state of healthcare facilities and medical practice in Nigeria (particularly through technology transfer).
“If the former Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency, Capt. Ichalla Idris Wada, could patronize Nigerian trained medical experts and medical facilities here in Nigeria when he unfortunately suffered a fractured femur following a fatal road traffic accident in 2013, I see no reason why in 2016 Mr. President could not have stayed back in Nigeria to attend to his ear infection.
“In line with my patriotic commitment to the Nigerian dream, I, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, submitted myself for a highly skilled and successful ENT surgical intervention conducted in Nigeria in the month of April, 2016. As a trained medical specialist, I believe that those ENT specialists/medical experts (and many others in Nigeria) who handled my situation then are skilled enough, and with the right equipment in place can handle any complicated ENT problem in Nigeria. I sure know what I am talking about.
“On account of the foregoing, I humbly and passionately appeal to Mr. President to show committed leadership by urgently rethinking the planned foreign medical travel and exploring the above suggested options of getting treated here in Nigeria.
“Mr. President should act now to remove this tragic blot on our collective professional and national image by returning home to receive medical care in Nigeria. Doing otherwise will send a strong negative signal to majority of toiling Nigerians who either have no means to seek healthcare services or daily indulge in catastrophic health expenditures, talk less of dreaming of traveling abroad for medical treatment,” Mr. Enabulele said.