By Chioma Obinna
Vice President, Commonwealth Medical Association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele Monday expressed disappointment at the news of President Muhammadu Buhari’s10-Day medical trip to London for an Ear, Nose and Throat, E.N.T, infection, saying, “it as a tragic blot on Nigeria’s collective professional and National image.”
The former President, Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, who condemned frequent medical trip by government officials, said Nigeria has suffered a great loss to medical tourism in recent past.
“I am very constrained to state that this 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 the year 2013 had led to a humongous capital flight of about $1billion dollars, particularly from expenses incurred by political and public office holders and their accompanying aides, whose foreign medical trips most of which are unnecessary, were financed with tax payers’ resources”, he said.
Osahon who advised the president Buhari to live by example at curbing medical tourism and saving Nigerians this great loss incurred through numerous trips abroad for medication stated that the 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.
He added that receiving treatment in Nigeria would inspire confidence in the health sector which currently boasts of medical experts that favourably compare with medical experts anywhere in the world, if not better.
“Mr. President should make a clear public pronouncement on his resolve to show leadership by example with respect to the utilization of the medical expertise and facilities that abound in Nigeria by him and other members of the Federal Executive Council, particularly in concrete expression of section 46 of the National Health Act which seeks to address the abuse of tax payers’ resources through frivolous foreign medical travels embarked upon by political and public office holders”. He said:
“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 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.”
The former NMA president said; “Without prejudice to the expert recommendation of President’s Personal Physician and the ENT specialist said to have examined and treated him in Abuja, I consider it a national shame of immense proportions that Mr. President had to be recommended for foreign medical care despite the presence of over 250 ENT specialists and professors in Nigeria, as well as a National Ear Centre located in Kaduna state.”
He recommended that the presidency should consider other options such as inviting a consortium of Nigerian trained ENT specialists in Nigeria to Abuja to re-evaluate and treat hi. If it is determined that the medical expertise is not available in Nigeria, any identified Nigerian trained ENT specialist practicing anywhere in the world should be invited to Abuja for re-evaluating and treating him.
“If it is a case where the health facilities/equipment are unavailable then the 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.
“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; he would save Nigeria the capital flight that would result from his planned foreign medical trip.