26 June 2012

Nigerians Spend U.S.$6.25 Billion Annually On Medical Expenses Abroad

Lagos — Minister of State for Health Dr. Mohammed Ali Pate says Nigerians spend about $6.256 billion per annum to access medical care abroad, regretting that some of the medical services Nigerians spend hard currencies to access abroad are available locally.

Delivering a keynote address at a one-day private sector health summit on 'Unlocking the Market Potential of Nigeria's Private Health Sector' held in Lagos yesterday, the minister said "up to half a billion US dollars leaves Nigeria annually in the form of foreign hospital treatment; a recent study shows that $500 million is spent on medical care in three sub-specialties alone; also a recent study shows that about $250 million per annum is estimated to flow to providers through health insurance system in Nigeria. By extrapolation, this points to about $6.25 billion per annum flowing private health expenditure" he said.

The minister also said most of the facilities Nigerians access broad are privately owned, saying the private health care sector in Nigeria should build capacity and provide superiority services to attract Nigerians to stay home for medical care.

Part of the solution to unlocking the market potential of the health sector, he said, is creating opportunities for the financial institutions to invest in health care delivery in Nigeria. This, according to him, will enable Nigeria to harness the resources and expertise of our medical experts in the Diaspora.

The second main constraints he said is development and enforcement of regulation and policies that stimulate the sector, reduce bottlenecks to effective private sector engagement and cost of doing business in health care.

Reacting on the call by the stakeholders in health care delivery for the government through Central Bank of Nigeria to provide rescue funds for the health sector like other sectors, he said while the option would be explored, government is more disposed to creating the enabling environment so several funding streams could flow in the health sector.

"Our private sector needs to up their game in the quality of medical care that they provide so that Nigerians will stay and access their care here in Nigeria, so we can retain our foreign currency and grow our economy" he said.

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