Now, this is one of the funniest news I’ve heard in a long time. The Federal Government of Nigeria plans to ban public officers from traveling abroad for medical treatment? How interesting. Doctors in Lagos are on strike, Nigerians are in need of specialist medical care, transplants and surgeries and are flying abroad daily because they cannot find the medical services in the country and the next thing is to ban public officers from traveling abroad for treatment? How does this solve the problem of poor quality health care in the country?
I can understand that the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu means well. According to the Vanguard News report published earlier today, the Minister said that he is preparing a memo for the Federal Executive Council, which will stop public officers from wasting public funds on foreign medical trips.
The only exception, according to him, will be a situation where the capacity to handle such a medical problem does not exist in Nigeria.
He added that he was preparing a memo which will soon be presented to the council to stop public officers from foreign medical treatment and that if the public officer insists that he doesn’t want treatment in Nigeria, he will not be permitted to use public funds for that so long as it can be done in Nigeria.
So why is this news funny to me? I’ll tell you why.
Every day, I hear of stories and pleas of Nigerians begging for funds from the public to travel abroad for a variety of medical problems. From organ transplants, surgeries, medical tests and a variety of health related issues, Nigerians are seeking for millions of naira to travel abroad every day. Some even die while seeking for such funds.
There is a great lack of medical equipment, facilities and expertise needed to treat these cases in the country, hence, the need to travel abroad to find solutions. I believe that if these medical equipment and facilities were available in the country, our expert doctors scattered across the globe would return to Nigeria and use the skills they have to help solve the health problems of many. Also, that if the Federal Government could manage their priorities properly, more money would be invested in providing adequate health care to Nigerians and save us the hassle of looking for millions to treat our medical problems.
As a journalist, I once came across a team of doctors from India who were in Nigeria to conduct free eye surgeries on hundreds of Nigerians. According to their co-coordinator, they were willing to do more but were hampered by the cold attitude of Nigerian public hospitals who were reluctant to let them use their facilities for the free surgeries.
This is really sad. It just seems as if the government at all levels is stagnant with regards to health care development. Sometimes, I think they just deliberately want to be that way, else, how would government hospitals be so averse to cooperating with people who have such good intentions. Once in a while, you’d read or hear news that an important medical equipment is being commissioned or donated to one hospital and then it ends there. Sometimes, there are no trained hands to manage this equipment and even if there is, the equipment would then be poorly maintained.
I think Nigeria should take a cue from India. Nigerians fly abroad to India practically every week for different types of medical problems. India, which used to be one of the under-developed countries of the world is now blazing the trail among countries which deliver specialist health care in the world. And India is so far. Far, far away from Nigeria, yet Nigerians are scrambling to go there to get proper health care.
My annoyance lies in the fact that Nigeria has the resources to make our health care system similar to what is obtainable in India, and even better. We have good doctors home and abroad, who are willing to develop their skills at any time. But what we see is these same ‘public officers’ sitting on the funds that should be used in developing our health care system.
So, I humbly think that stopping Nigerians from going abroad for medical care is not the solution to the problem. I don’t even think that it would be feasible. What about those that travel for better quality education, for better standard of living, or those that travel just to enjoy themselves. Can you stop those ones too?
Vanguard quoted the Minster thus “As Honourable Minister of Health, none of my relatives has been referred abroad.” This is easy to say for you Sir, but not for that young man who needs a kidney transplant or the young girl who has cancer of the blood.
Please ensure that our hospitals can take care of such health problems before bothereing with drafting memos. Nigeria needs better quality health care.
P.S: I know that I sould very bitter in this post but these are my honest views. Please share yours.
News Source: Vanguard News