The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) is unhappy that Nigerians shun facilities and manpower at home for medical treatment abroad and is set to address the issue of medical tourism.
Its president, Dr Osahon Enabulele, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja that the NMA was determined to change Nigeria from a country whose citizens looked outward for Medicare into a place that attracted medical tourists.
He said the first step towards that goal was the meeting of minds at the first ever NMA National Health Summit to be held in Asaba between Jan. 20 and Jan. 27.
Enabulele stated that the summit was an opportunity to drive very proactive, purposeful and progressive proposals that would impact positively on the lives of Nigerians.
"It's aimed at driving very strategic proposals to reposition the medical profession and of course the health care system in our country Nigeria.
"We have had to gather resource persons, professionals, stakeholders and indeed Nigerians, home and abroad to congregate in Asaba to discuss the issues that affect the health care system.
"Including the much talked about medical tourism that has had undue impact on even the resources of Nigeria, on the lives of Nigerians and of course the overall image and integrity of Nigeria.
"We intend to address very fundamentally the issue of harmony within the health care sector because we believe that as leaders of the health system, we have very fundamental role to play in driving new understandings, new relationships that will ultimately improve quality patient care."
Enabulele said that the NMA did not want the summit to end with talks, but with action.
"We intend to look at newer options of financing public health care."
He explained that other countries with thriving health care systems made progress as a result of developing synergy between the public and the private sectors.
According to the NMA president, one way of stopping Nigerians from leaving the country for their medical needs is by reinforcing their faith in the Nigerian health care system.
Enabulele added that the association was trying to recruit state governors in its quest to re-establish national trust in the country's health care facilities.
The NMA president spoke against the indiscriminate recruitment of expatriate doctors by governors to deliver medical treatment that many Nigerian doctors where capable of doing.
He said this only served to undermine the belief of the people in the Nigerian health care practitioners.
"We are trying to educate our state governments who are not doing Nigeria any good by frequently bringing in these expatriate doctors.
"Aside from the fact that you cannot always vouch for their credibility in terms of their licensure, it also creates a problem when a patient needs a follow-up examination after the expatriate doctor has left."
He added that ironically, Nigerians have done well in the field of health care in the international market.
He said that it was not unusual for someone to seek treatment in America or in Britain only to get treated by a Nigerian.
Enabulele said that the Governors Forum to be held at the Asaba national health summit was programmed to draw the attention of state governments to believe in the Nigerian medical practitioners and in available infrastructure.
He explained that budgetary investments by governments in health care was not the only way that governors could change people's minds about Nigerian medical practice.
"We have identified as an organisation lack of political commitment to health care and the health care environment.
"It is beyond voting a budget for health. You can vote a budget for health and the next time you have a problem you are flying the next available plane out of the country, what have you done?
"You have driven despondency amongst your people in the available health care facilities; in the utilisation of health resource persons within those environments, eventually the statistics start going down.
"We have an opportunity for our governors, for instance if the governors at the governor's forum agree that that never again, should they have as a first resort, travel abroad for conditions that can be managed here, I think that that is a win-win situation for all of us.
"Because that will mean committing yourself towards driving facilities in your health care environment in your state and your local government."
Enebulele stressed that the NMA would no longer continue to lament poor health indices in Nigeria as they were not true representation of the country's health sector.
He explained that if a man got involved in a car accident and died due to the bad condition of the road; that had nothing to do with Nigerian health care sector, but more to do with bad infrastructure.