22 January 2013

Nigeria: FG to Ban Medical Treatment Abroad

The Federal Government has said that plans have been concluded to place a ban on Nigerians seeking medical treatment that could be handled by some public and private health facilities in the country abroad.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who stated this Monday in Asaba, the Delta State capital, during the opening ceremony of the first Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) National Health Summit, said government was no longer comfortable that Nigerians rush abroad unnecessarily for health challenges that could be handled in the nation's public and private facilities.

Chukwu in his key note address said: "The Federal Ministry of Health has also directed that on no account should cases which could be handled by some of our private health facilities be referred from government teaching hospitals to private hospitals overseas."

He said the Federal Government was working acidulously to ensure that the nation's health sectors is re-positioned to meet the expected challenges of providing affordable healthcare for its citizens through the implementation of Universal Health Insurance Scheme.

He further stated that other measures taken by Federal Government included "provisions contained in the National Health Bill which is before the National Assembly, the current attempt to establish a National Health Emergency Fund, the re-enactment of the National Health Insurance Act to make it compulsory for all employers of labour to buy health insurance for all employees, the up-scaling of the community -based health insurance and intensifying marketing of voluntary contributors social health insurance scheme."

Chukwu emphasised that for the Federal Government's National Strategic Health Development Plans to be fully realised, "it needs to be supported and protected by appropriate constitutional provision and relevant legislation."

Senate President, Senator David Mark, in his remarks, assured the health stakeholders of the support of the senate for a speedy deliberation on the National Health Bill, adding that the contribution of NMA in the ongoing constitutional amendment will be giving due consideration.

He condemned the internal wrangling among the health professional, urging them to work towards one objective by shielding their swords, adding that squabbles can derail the programmes and plans of government towards improving healthcare delivery in the country.

Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, and his Anambra State counterpart, Mr. Peter Obi, canvassed the need for NMA to always result to dialogue rather than recourse to strike which has more negative consequences.

According to Oshiomhole, "It is good to be talking, at the end of the day, something good will come out of it , government and NMA need to interact more; if you go on strike, the common man is affected," adding that such act was against their professional oath of office to save life."

He lamented a situation where some NMA members embark on strike while patient die in the hospitals, saying such act on account of allowance, is likened to "treason," because life lost cannot be regained.

He condemned a situation where government-employed doctors abandon their hospitals to run private clinics, saying it is against their professional ethics.

The president of the NMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, in his welcome address pointed out that despite the efforts made by previous and current governments, there are still gaps in the healthcare delivery which he said are traceable to the absence of a legal and constitutional framework for health all of which has inhibited the expected growth and development of Nigeria's healthcare system.

Governor Emmnauel Uduaghan on his part, lamented the level of quackery in the medical profession as a lot of hospitals that are operational do not have the required legal backing to function.

He added that strike has became a weapon for health workers to hold government to ransom over wages.

The governor however called on members of the National Executive of the NMA to be vibrant and speak out on national issues as such contributions are capable of shaping development in the country.

He told them to constantly draw attention to flash points in the polity and proffer solutions that would shape the destiny of the nation.

Uduaghan charged them to brainstorm and critically access the health sector and provide a sustainable roadmap that would improve healthcare delivery in the nation.

He promised to continue to sustain the current tempo of healthcare delivery in the state, explaining that the free maternal healthcare and free medical care for children from 0-5 years of age was designed to build a highly potent human capital in the state.

Explaining further, he said: "We are interested in the development of the individual from conception to death. So what we are doing in the state is to provide free maternal for our pregnant women and free health care delivery for 0-5 year old children to enable us build a formidable human capital development programme that is geared towards a state beyond oil."

He explained that the Delta State Teaching Hospital, Oghara was partnering with the University of Texas to ensure that in the next 14-16 months it would be able to carry out renal transplants.

Speaking further, he said a lot of achievements have been made in the medical field by the Delta State Teaching Hospital, Oghara and has helped Nigerians to seek medical attention in the state rather than travel outside the country.

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