Daily Trust (Abuja)

3 December 2012

Nigeria: Country Loses N81 Billion Annually to Medical Tourism - Expert

An expert in medical tourism, Dr Ufuoma Okotete, has said Nigeria loses N81 billion annually to medical tourism.

Okotete who is a Director at the Diamond Helix Medical Assistance, an international medical referral organisation, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

She said an average air ticket to India cost about N250, 000, adding that the Indian High Commission in Lagos issues about 40 medical visas per day.

According to her, this is as a result of lack of medical facilities and treatment procedures in Nigeria.

"The Nigerian medical situation is so sad; we lack modern medical facilities and well functioning multi-medical specialty, poor diagnostic services and poor infrastructure. We lack national healthcare plan, and if there are any, it is not implemented to meet the needs of the people thus increasing the rate of medical tourism," she said.

Okotete said that Nigerians fall into the category of "Medical Refugees," a person who has been forced to leave the country in order to escape death from unavailable medical needs."

She said that the high cost of getting medical attention outside the country had caused many people to sell their properties and some died because they could not afford it.

According to her, medium surgery patients spend as much as eight thousand dollars for treatment while a spinal surgery patient spends 15,000 dollars.

"Renal transplant surgeries cost about 20,000 dollars without after surgery maintenance. An average cardiac surgery cost about eight thousand dollars for children and 15, 000 dollars for adult. A cancer patient spends more than 20,000 dollars for the total cost of treatment.

"An air ambulance to Germany cost N20 million while an average ambulance charter to India cost N30 million. All these huge amount of money goes out of Nigeria everyday whereas, we can keep them here, if we do the right thing," she said.

Okotete said that there was need to adopt extensive collaborations in the health sector.

"There is a need for Nigeria to come of age in the health sector by increasing the budgetary allocation to health and private partnership in healthcare system. More investment in the private sector because the public sector is a smaller provider of health care than the private sector," Okotete said.

She also called on the Federal Government to create conducive environment that would encourage investors to invest in the nation's health sector.

NAN

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