Home EDITORIAL Going beyond PMB in the ban of medical tourism

Going beyond PMB in the ban of medical tourism

by News Echo
4 minutes read

The news had trended at the weekend over the purported attempt by the Senate to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from further travelling abroad to seek medical attention.

Medical tourism is one phenomenon that has drained the scarce foreign exchange of the country as many top Nigerian public officials and private individuals hop out of the nation at the slightest indisposition.

Given the charge the Senate Committee Chairman on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs, Danjuma La’ah Thursday, reportedly asked State House officials to put its clinic in order and equip it to ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari would have no need to travel abroad for medical treatment.

La’ah, made this remark when the Permanent Secretary of the State House, Mr. Tijani Umar, appeared before the panel to defend his 2021 budget estimates. The State House official had presented a budget of N19.7 billion for 2021, out of which N1.3 billion was proposed for the State House Clinic.

Senator La’ah said the committee would approve the budget for the State House Clinic but insisted that the President and other top officials of his government should no longer be flown abroad for medical treatment. President Buhari’s first term in office was punctuated by medical trips to the United Kingdom.

Between 2017 and 2018, he travelled abroad at least thrice for medical reasons. One of the trips lasted for over 100 days.

The President, himself, in 2019 lamented that Nigeria loses too much to medical tourism, urging stakeholders to come up with a solution. In March, the Central Bank of Nigeria launched a N100 billion credit support intervention for the healthcare industry amid the coronavirus pandemic. One of the credit support’s objectives was to “reduce health tourism to conserve foreign exchange.”

The issue of medical tourism in Nigeria among public officials has remained a protracted one in public space attracting wide spread condemnation for obvious reasons. There is general neglect of funding public hospitals which has led to myriads of issues with our health care systems thereby creating untimely deaths among the masses.

Most government hospitals especially in the South East and Imo State in particular have been taken over by weeds due to long years of neglect and abandonment. The poor who cannot afford the medical tourism like the privileged ones in the political class are left with their fate in their hands. It is approximates to a case of clear robbery of the less privileged.

Lack of or poor funding of hospitals leads to non-provision of drugs, non-payment of hospital personnel, lack of medical infrastructure, brain drain of our best hands in the medical profession, untimely deaths, outbreak of diseases, and over all poor Medicare in the land.

Need we remind that the primary responsibility of any government is the protection of lives of and properties of its citizens? Sadly, this sacred duty has been abdicated by the government and which formed part of the reasons the youths in the country marched out in their numbers to protest bad governance.

We commend the efforts of the Senate in drawing attention to the irregularities that occur at the State House at the seat of power. We recall that in the not too distant past the first Lady have had occasion to query on two different times what has happened to the huge budgetary allocations appropriated to the State House Clinic.

News Echo is of the view that this should go beyond cautioning and making warning statements. The Senate if it is sincere about this should provide appropriate legislation in this direction to control this. It is by so doing that the affected public officials would be compelled to look inwards to do the needful for the overall interest of the citizenry.

It has been proven that medical tourism in most cases was unnecessary and was undertaken in some cases as a show of class and to waste public funds. During the 6 months period of Pandemic when there were no opportunities to jet out the country conserved some funds from medical tourism and there were no reported deaths of many top public officials.

It is never a salutary commentary that after 60 years of independence as a nation we have continued to lag behind in most of the critical areas that should support our growth. A healthy people are a productive people. We cannot lament enough the poor state of our medical facilities which has accelerated death in our rural communities.

The situation is further not helped by the poor economic condition of the country.
The Senate should be seen to walk its talk. The effort should be comprehensive and all encompassing. It should be seen to affect positively and hugely the suffering masses who appropriately should be the beneficiary. Anything short of this is mere playing to the gallery.

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