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Ban on Public Officers from Traveling Abroad for Medical Care: A Step in Which Direction?

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Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu

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

Adeola Adeyemo is a graduate of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from University of Lagos. However, her passion is writing and she worked as a reporter with NEXT Newspaper. She believes that anything can be written about; anything can be a story depending on the angle it is seen from and the writer's imagination. When she is not writing news or feature articles, she slips into her fantasies and creates interesting fiction pieces. She blogs at www.deolascope.blogspot.com

42 Comments

  1. nthatimos

    April 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    follow me on twitter BN lovers. @nthatimos

  2. Postitive step forward

    April 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Best news ive heard about Nigeria in awhile. Now these selfish public officials will use the money to improve health facilities since they cant run outside. Does it make sense that there are no basic things like kidney dialysis centres? Or oxgen machines?
    The wealthy ALL have an air ambulance on speed dial to fly them to South Africa of there is a crisis. What type of life is that?

    Next up they should badn public officials sendig their children for education abroad. You think you are cool because you have a degree from England or Canada but the truth is you are the product of a useless country that cant produce one decent enough university for you to attend!

    Bring on the ban! Finally some govt officials with balls. Why should i be afraid i am going to die over simple illnesses because I cant afford St Nicholas or Eko hospital?

  3. christy

    April 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Didn’t they say public ofice holder? Or does dat stil insist wil nt use public funds huh?

    • Nwanne

      April 15, 2012 at 12:54 am

      Exactly Christy. The minister was specific I think on ‘using pubic funds for overseas medical trips abroad for ailments that can be treated here’; I think this is a very good policy. Dont know why ‘us’ Nigerians just find it necessary to criticize even if it is unnecessary? Is this not the kinds of things we have been asking- public officers who administers public policy and institutions should have faith in those institutions enough to use the services they are providing, so that they use the same roads the rest of us use , their children attend the same schools we attend, go to same markets we go to etc. Is this not the accountability we all have been asking for, so why now criticize it in stead 0f engaging in order to deepen it. The article’s criticism about scaling up and improving medical facilities is valid, but is not mutually exclusive to this new policy.

  4. ms pretty

    April 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    This is long overdue, I remember years ago when I suggested to my friends – we r all not known anyway – that the criteria for vying for a political office n Nigeria shd be 1. no medical treatment abroad; (2) no generator n their homes (3) no schooling abroad for their kids (3) no flying 1st or business classes when they go on trips, lets start with these ones and see if our health, education, energy sectors will not function properly. But before doing all these; how honest are we aith ourselves, when a whole LUTH can go months without electricity, where doctors perform surgeries with candles and lanterns, oh co’mon Nigerians r so not ready for the development we so crave for, lets see how this goes, I support this guy, if this memo can be approved, lets see if we will not have d best transplant centre in Nigeria, they may make it unaffordable for the poor masses, but we will have it, yes medical is not cheap anywhere abroad but they have them, we need to start from somewhere to get any positive results, Nigeria is in a comtaose state and we cannot continue like this and pretend all is well.

  5. Doc-toh- bad

    April 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I think this is one of the best news I’ve heard in a while…concerning our medical system in naija. The govt hospitals are in a sorry horrible state, and they are left to rot because the govt doesn’t allocate enough to health. They don’t care because they know that they can always fly out of the country to seek better health care.
    I hope this measure is implemented properly bcos if done well, it would make the govt sit up and tackle our rotting health care system bcos they know they could be in need of its services

  6. temi

    April 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    this minister is a joker o, if u dont want ppl to travel abroad then give us quality health facilities,when the federal govt can not even saatify the doctors dat went thru alot in sch and yet they r still reading their head off, becos none of ur familes has been refered to abroad 4 treatment so what,you r comparing ur tiny families to the population of sick ppl in naija abi,i no blame u cos na only inside enjoyment u dey,there r beter things to do in that ur office to make our health beter.am sure u just want to make noise so that ppl can know u r the minister in charge.

    • Wow

      April 14, 2012 at 10:38 pm

      It is important to read the article properly 1st b4 making a comment. The minister wants a ban on ‘public officials’ from seeking care abroad. Not reg. citizens like u & I.

    • diamond

      April 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Thank you wow. Temi, read the article carefully. He said public officials would not be allowed to travel abroad for treatments that could be gotten here in Nigeria using public funds. If such officer insists on travelling, he would do that from his own funds or pocket as we understand it.

  7. faith

    April 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Govt officials shuldnt use Publiic funds τ̅☺ sponsor treatments dat can b done in naija.I agree wit d minister on dat!

  8. obrutz

    April 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    to me there is totally nothing wrong with the minister’s steps. Imean it is specified that it only affects public office holders and we know the extent to wich public fund has been mismanaged. So i see no reason why anyone would want to complain over governments decision that will go a long way to reduce corruption. And again the task of geting a better health care delivery dosent lie on the minister alone.if stakeholders and influential government officials are ban 4rm geting medical care abroad,all hands would be on deck to help our health system grow

  9. nich

    April 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    for me i hail journalist and people with the courage to discuss about nigerian government and policies……to me they are the heroes……..

    for me i believe that nigeria will never make it the next 70yrs…..or more…..nigeria for me is a shame……

    • ,JKJHJIUUI

      April 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      100 YEARS MORE LIKE IT I HEARD,,.

  10. bettyB

    April 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    From my understand(correct me if i am wrong) the article states that the minister proposes to ban public official from using public money to receive healthcare abroad. That is a commendable action. The article does not say there will be any restriction in the general public seeking healthcare abroad or indeed public official provided they pay for it out of their own pocket. What the minister proposes has little bearing on the state of the healthcare at present. This is two separate issue.
    Regarding the Indian doctors and use of public facilities, i strongly urge you as a journalist to properly investigate matters. The medical profession is highly regulated . In most developed countries, foreign doctors(even thoes from other developed countries) must go through rigorous testing and exams before they are allowed to treat patients. Also if a patient suffers serious complications, the hospital is liable for this and can be successfully sued. If you look more about the healthcare system in india, you will realise, all that glitters is not gold.

  11. Deee

    April 14, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    I think its an excellent idea, when public officers can no longer take the easy way out and they have to use the same health care system as the average Nigerian they will be forced to fix the system.

  12. oluchi

    April 14, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    This is just another funny story from the Nigerian Government,this should not be the major source of concern at this point in time when Medical facilities have not been put in place.

  13. KingsQueen

    April 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Finally, its about time and i like the clause that says “…a situation where the capacity to handle such a medical problem does not exist in Nigeria is the only exception”

  14. BeautyFULL

    April 14, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    So they even use public funds to treat themselves abroad?Ok.mr minister,its a pity Чυя memo will never be implemented because it is unfavourable to those who should implement it.I don’t understand why Nigerians are so wicked to themselves.Why can’t we just love each other and determine to make this place a wonderful place for us all?Everyone wants to be the only cock that crows while others look at your shine from a distance.Want to send Чυя kids to school abroad while refusing to pay lecturers and they strike leaving other peoples kids at home.Its well sha.Let’s watch and see.

  15. kut

    April 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    This is a good news, it said public officers, why should they use public fund to seek medical treatment abroad while they are the same people that kill our hospital? Let all of us be treated here or use their money.

  16. concerned naijababe

    April 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Definitely a step in the right direction. There are many good health facilities in Nigeria. Federal Medical Centre Asaba is one of them. They treat thousands of Nigerians daily and if the public servants that serve there are given all they need, nothing is stopping them from being the best. Nigerian doctors are still the ones abroad aren’t they? Another problem is because we do not have joined up medical services, most Nigerians do not know here to go for basic health services. My daddy just had laser eye surgery at UBTH, I am terribly impressed and they do cancer treatment in UCH as well

  17. aproko

    April 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    I absolutely agree with the minister. If public officers have no choice than to use their medical services then they will improve it. Its simply a “make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in”.

  18. Sunday Idowu

    April 15, 2012 at 12:04 am

    This is yet another example of the ignorance and lack of experience on display by a Minister. If he really wants to solve the problem, he should tackle the CAUSE (Why are Nigerians traveling abroad for treatment?) not the EFFECT (waste of taxpayer funds by Office Holders,etc.). The causes have been enumerated above, so I will simply say that this is another stupid un-workable policy by a Minister (One way or the other, those guys will still go abroad until the Causes are tackled).

  19. Dan

    April 15, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I think Nigerians are one of the most stupid sets of people on earth. We just never get anything right and we are too proud to humble ourselves and retrace our steps.
    Isn’t it obvious that we are not prepared for the transition from treatment abroad to treatment at home? Where is the alternative to foreign quality health care in Naija. Or is this just an attempt to reduce government expenditure? If it is, at least provide quality health care for all at home so that you can be clearly justified. sighhhh!

    • diamond

      April 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm

      Thank you wow. Temi, read the article carefully. He said public officials would not be allowed to travel abroad for treatments that could be gotten here in Nigeria using public funds. If such officer insists on travelling, he would do that from his own funds or pocket as we understand it.
      you are one of the reasons Nigeria will not move forward because you keep cursing the country, even for things that are not worth it. you use your mouth to destroy this country daily. and it’s so unfortunate you are talking out of ignorance. you didnt take time to digest the article.

  20. On point

    April 15, 2012 at 8:35 am

    I feel nigerians have criticized the health sector so much that people are incapable of recognizing efforts being made in this sector. This is a problem with almost all sectors, we are so entrenched with the notion that there is no progress that when we do see progress, we are not able to acknowledge or appreciate it. The progress I’m talking about is in the private sector (and before I’m misunderstood, i don’t mean reddington hospital)..There are a lot of physicians, mostly foreign trained doing great things, scattered all over nigeria. St. Nicholas does kidney transplants, lasuth has several cardiac surgery mission under its belt but no one talks about that. Its condemn, condemn, condemn. Im sick and tired of lack of appreciation for progress no matter how little
    I think this is a right move, banning public officers from traveling out for sometimes, mundane reasons like a check up. Patronize ur own.

  21. deeb

    April 15, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Govt!!! put things in place in the health sector and these people will stay in Nigeria!! evn nigerian doctors in diaspora will relocate back.
    Instead , just trust Nigerian govt to put the cart before the horse.

  22. hauwa dauda

    April 15, 2012 at 11:40 am

    When does this take effect? The Senate President just left for Israel for medical attention.

    • Naz

      April 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      hahahahaha…. he better return to 9ja oh! wat happened to national hospital in abuja?? lol

  23. Ubochi Izuh

    April 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    I very much agree with Adeyemo. Health care and quality one for that matter to save one’s life is a human right and personal one. Prof. Chukwu should focus on the source of funds being used to go abroad. He should ensure that public fund is not being used. If he truly wants to affirm the oath he took as a physician, he should pay attention to the points made by Adeyemo about the reasons patients go abroad and the solutions to it that would stop it. No sick Nigerian would go abroad if the equipments, expertise and cooperation of the hospital staff exists. While don’t Honorable prof. Chukwu present a comprehensive strategic health care plan to the president, congress and senate detailing healthcare reform that would ensure quality life saving care being accessible to all Nigerians instead of writing memos that infringe on peoples’ God giving right. Yes, Adeyemo is a good observer, a true patriot who stuck the knife where it belongs. Honesty should prevail. Prof. Chukwu stay afar from politics, our people are dying too young and too painfully when all the resource to avail it exist.

  24. Austine Da WhizChap

    April 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Is today April 1st or wot? Mee no understand oooooo! Anyway, now, we go know say some people are more equal than the others. Well, na here we D̶̲̥̅̊ε̲̣̣̣̥γ̲̣̣̥ naa. God help this country…..we simply lack national direction, purpose and focus. It is indeed well. Best regards!

  25. femi

    April 15, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    While it is a good idea, it is not one that can be implemented overnight. The decay of decades in the state of health care delivery in naija is not one that can be turned around overnight.

    Government should first work on putting up a good health care system that people can use before telling them not to go else where. After such system is in place, then we can stop going any where. And instead of people going out, why dont they bring the specialist down, it will be cheaper. The average naija outside naija wants to help in every possible way we can.
    Our postential for greatness is limitless.

  26. Partyrider

    April 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Right move at a wrong time,or better still trying to solve the problem from the surface.
    why do govt officials go abroad for medical treatment? Simple answer: our health sector is a FAILURE.
    What is the primary way to stop these guys from seeking medical attention abroad? Simple answer : FIX the failed sector.
    How? Simple answer: infrastructure and facilities,and of course regard for health professionals i.e doctors and nurses(salary and other wages)
    When we have all these in place and I mean 100% efficient ,then you can go ahead and place your ban and they will have no choice but to stay at home And receive proper health care…
    But till then,I’m sorry to say this move will NOT change the failed state of the hospitals in Nigeria and the health sector as a whole .

  27. NNENNE

    April 15, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Good!!! Hope it will be enforced.

  28. marvel

    April 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I wish the minister luck! My mum had to wait 9 hours at a general hospital in Lagos for an eye check (just a check) and when she got to see the doctor, he was very angry with someone else that she had an issue with him talking to her, let alone touching her eye. He kept shouting and abusing a patient for Lord knows whatever reason… The minister has a lot of work cut out for himself. How anybody wishes to tackle the miserable nurses, arrogant doctors, looting pharmacists (sell drugs that is meant for the public) beats me.

  29. m

    April 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    what is ‘public funds’ is it that easy to define? step by step-health sector improvements ASAP

  30. iamfascinating

    April 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Step in the right direction. Next should be that they should only use public power supply!

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  31. Alex

    April 16, 2012 at 4:46 am

    I personally think it is a step in d right direction if they actually go through with it, cuz If public officialss r forced to use our medical facilities in the country then there will be more motivation to make our medical facilities better

  32. Myne Whitman

    April 16, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Definitely in the right direction. They can sponsor such trips with their own private funds.

  33. sylvia

    April 16, 2012 at 10:27 am

    @my peolpe, pls read the article very well….i mean.. as in.. read through & through. for those of you with slow understanding…the minister said “public office holders”. in otherwords, you have your money, fine & good spend it however you want . No more unnecessary spending of tax payers money.

  34. Nike

    April 16, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I don’t think the author even understood his own article because he is ranting against the Minister’s move. I think its a wonderful idea. If they cant travel abroad, they will be forced to use the money to improve the healthcare system.

    • diamond

      April 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      i feel you

  35. Mpho in South Africa

    April 16, 2012 at 11:02 am

    This will surely be a good move by the 9ja goverment.Take it from us here in South Africa.U will never hear of any minister,or even the president being flewn abroad for some medical assistance.Even our own former president Nelson Mandela gets treated here in our country be our very own doctors in our hospitals.Nigeria really need to get their health care systems in order.

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