Medical treatment

Overseas medical treatment costs Nigeria $11 billion

Overseas medical treatment continues despite Buhari’s promise to end it

By Jeph Ajobaju, Editor-in-Chief

Nigerians have spent $11.01 billion on medical care abroad in 10 years, according to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) balance of payments data, a capital flight that is depleting foreign exchange reserves and weakens the naira.

Nigerians spent $11.01 billion on health expenditure abroad between 2011 and the first quarter of 2021 (Q1 2021). The highest amount was in 2019 ($2.56 billion) and the least in 2016 ($17 million).

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It highlights how the health sector suffers from multiple problems, one of which is underfunding, which averaged 4.72% of budget allocation in the 10 years to 2011.

Inadequate funding leads to poor remuneration of health workers, a point highlighted each year by the exodus of doctors to foreign countries.

Nigerian doctors number 9,189 in the UK, with 805 licensed by the British General Medical Council (BGMC) between July and 25 December 2021.

Since 2018, others have migrated east to Saudi Arabia where Nigerian doctors are very expensive.

After years of turmoil, the monthly hazard allowance for doctors working in government hospitals in Nigeria was increased in December 2021 from N5,000 to between N32,000 and 40,000. Other health workers receive between N15,000 and 34,000 naira.

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To put that into perspective, however, senators receive 1.24 million naira a month just to buy newspapers.

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Nigerian Doctors Excel Abroad

The Nigerian healthcare system is plagued with huge drawbacks, but countless citizens are excelling in the medical profession overseas.

Nigerian-born doctor, Professor Iyalla Elvis Peterside, has been named one of the top doctors in the United States of 2020 by the US National Consumer Advisory Board.

Onyema Ogbuagu, another Nigerian-born doctor based in the United States, was one of the scientists who discovered the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus pandemic.

Buhari’s hypocrisy and failure

Muhammadu Buhari promised during the 2015 election campaign to upgrade medical facilities and end foreign medical tourism by government officials, including himself. But he does not keep his promises and characteristically refuses to give an account.

He fails to solve the problems listed by doctors and, given his famous record of incompetence, callousness, intimidation and breaking the law, he cannot (and will not) solve problems including lack of medical facilities and low salaries.

Buhari himself knows these problems in the delivery of health care.

But rather than repair them, he travels abroad for medical treatment, at a huge cost to the Treasury. He’s not even ashamed of not keeping his promise. He also doesn’t bother to explain why.

In August 2021, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged Buhari to redirect voted N4.87 to spy on citizens through social media, phone calls and text messages to pay doctors’ salaries in strike.

SERAP has also called for detective money to be used to improve benefits for resident doctors as well as health facilities for poor Nigerians who depend on these facilities and have no means of medical tourism abroad. , like Buhari.

Prime time records that since Buhari took office on May 29, 2015, he has spent 200 days in the UK for medical treatment during seven trips, the last of which he returned on August 13, 2021.

His illness has never been made public, although his treatment has cost millions of pounds – including his official entourage, family members, the maintenance and fuel costs of the presidential plane, the hotel bills – at the feet of taxpayers.

Nairametry notes that Nigeria is experiencing significant capital flight for overseas medical services with little inflow for reciprocal services at the local level where health care delivery lacks adequate infrastructure and trained personnel.

Health care allowance

Figures from the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) show that Nigerians spend an average of $1 billion a year on medical treatment abroad, 60% in four areas – oncology, orthopaedics, nephrology and cardiology.

A PwC survey found that more than 90% of respondents described advanced healthcare in Nigeria as “low quality”.

Each new report of poor clinical care reinforces the belief among the population that health care is substandard and should be avoided whenever an alternative is found.

Nigeria’s health sector is valued at N484.76 billion in 2020 and accounts for 0.69% of the economy.

Only 4.05% of the budget was allocated to the Ministry of Health in 2021, including 76% for recurrent expenditure and 24% for capital expenditure.

Data shows a decline in the allocation of funds to health over the last 10 years – 5.58% (2011), 6.03% (2012), (4.05% (2021).

Why Nigerians Are Doing Medical Tourism Abroad

Health Minister Osagie Ehanire, while representing Buhari at the second Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) National Health Summit in 2019, said the attitude of health workers was a major reason for seeking medical treatment abroad.

“If we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit that more than the lack of equipment and medical technical expertise, the poor maintenance and sanitation and the often poor and disrespectful attitude of health workers as well as ‘A perceived lack of confidentiality harms the image and reputation of the health system and also the public’s trust in it,’ Ehanire said.

But in 2021, Senator Aishatu Ahmed (Adamawa Central) cited underfunding, weak facilities and infrastructure, low motivation of health workers, low budget, weak accountability, conflicts with the political structure of States and industrial actions as major issues in health care. delivery.

She disclosed that an average of 20,000 Nigerians travel to India every year for medical treatment due to the lack of a strong healthcare system at home.

A health worker, Emilola Eniodunmo, also cited the lack of adequate facilities and low morale as key reasons for the poor delivery of medical care across the country.

But, she pointed out, “In some notable private hospitals in Nigeria and even government hospitals, we have executive rooms for patients and VIP treatment rooms, where special treatment is given to patients for the good. amount”.

Eniodunmo said a lack of medical equipment and technical expertise to manage some serious illnesses are the main patients seeking medical treatment abroad.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Workforce Alliance reports that factors affecting Nigeria’s health services include:

  • A lack of coordination between the public and private sectors.
  • Commercial pressures in the private sector that lead to poor quality work.
  • Work environments that contribute to low motivation, less than optimal productivity, high attrition – especially in rural areas.
  • A lack of planning based on the projection of staffing needs, leading to overproduction of certain categories of health workers to the detriment of others.