The Nigerian Health Travel Causes and Health System
After decades in turmoil since gaining its independence in 1960, Nigeria is taking bolder towards a stronger health care system and a healthier population.
We have analyzed a few of the issues still needed to be taken into account by the nigerian health system and seen how medical tourism is an important factor for its development.
Despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world. The poverty in the North is in contrast to the more developed Southern states. The oil is located in Southern Nigeria and delegates from oil-producing areas want local communities to keep more of the revenue it generates. However, poverty levels are far higher in the North and delegates from non-oil-producing resist such moves. Oil states keep 25% of the oil revenue they earn and hand the rest to the federal government. Nigeria is one of the world's biggest oil producers but most of its 170 million people live in poverty.
How Medical Tourism Affects Nigeria's Health Care System
Nigeria loses huge sums in capital flight to medical tourism, as most of the nation’s hospitals lack the modern equipment needed for effective diagnosis and treatment. There is also shortages of medical material and the blood supply of the country is not considered safe. Hygiene conditions are problematic, especially outside the large cities. Nigeria’s public healthcare system has deteriorated because of a lack of resources and a "brain drain" syndrome of Nigerian doctors as well as skilled health workers to other countries.
Even when there are adequate facilities and well-trained personnel, some wealthy Nigerians still prefer to travel abroad for different reasons - showing off the elevated status and wealth, the lack of trust and confidence in the Nigerian healthcare delivery system. The money being wasted on foreign medical trips yearly accounts for millions of dollars. They should be properly channeled into providing and establishing world-class hospitals in different parts of the country which would benefit both the rich and the poor.
While efforts are being made to transform healthcare in Nigeria by equipping the hospitals with modern equipment, the investment needed to do this and build many new hospitals is huge. In 2014 President Goodluck Jonathan expressed his determination to involve local and international private investors in the health sector reforms. “A lot of Nigerians go to seek medical help abroad and almost all the hospitals that attend to them outside this country are privately owned. If we encourage the private sector to take the lead; that would save the amount of money Nigerians pay outside. The determination of our government is to ensure that our citizens have access to quality and affordable healthcare services. The role of the private sector in complementing government efforts is crucial”, he explained.
When Nigerians need to see a doctor, many get on a plane instead of going to the local hospital. Over 5,000 Nigerians travel abroad for medical attention every month. The medical exodus is hurting Nigeria's health service. Nigerians usually travel to India, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Germany for diabetes treatment, kidney failure, surgeries and other medical interventions. Indian hospitals saw 18,000 Nigerians on medical visas in 2012. 47% of Nigerians visiting India in 2012 did so to get medical attention, according to figures from the Indian High Commission. These 18,000 medical tourists spent $260 million in scarce foreign exchange in the process. (Around $15,000 per medical tourist).
Life expectancy: 52/54 years
Income per capita: $ 2,290
The World Health Organisation ranks the country’s health system 197th out of the 200 nations in its 2009 report. In terms of life expectancy, Nigeria ranks 212th in the world. In terms of expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP, it ranks 139th in the world.
Nigerians’ Health Fund
Total expenditure for health per capita: $ 139 (in 2011)
Risk factors: Alcohol, Tobacco
Mortality and burden of disease
Mortality and burden disease: HIV, Tuberculosis, Noncommunicable disease, Malaria
0-14 years: 43.9% (male 38,232,053/female 36,483,243)
15-24 years: 19.3% (male 16,757,436/female 16,018,589)
25-54 years: 30% (male 25,123,834/female 25,945,571)
55-64 years: 3.8% (male 2,981,187/female 3,520,154)
65 years and over: 3% (male 2,325,682/female 2,735,991) (2012 est.)
Source: World Health Organization
Customers' complaints regarding the health sector
The “brain drain” syndrome of Nigerian doctors left the country with a shortage of highly trained medical staff
Lack of funding for new programs such as environmental protection, accident prevention and communicable diseases.
Although controlled by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, drug quality is often sub-standard.
Declining capacity to meet the increasing demand for a large population, spread out over a large geographical area.
In May 1999, the government of Nigeria created the National Health Insurance Scheme that includes government employees, the organized private sector and the informal sector, a scheme that has been amended in 2004. However, the outbound medical tourism is still growing due to shortages in the public and private health sectors.
A pioneer in the African continent, Nigeria also developed a new bone marrow donor program, the second in Africa, which has been improving since its launch in 2012, in cooperation with the University of Nigeria. Hence the sector of leukemia treatments and other cancers or lymphoma is showing massive improvement, but at this time it is still in the early stages, and hopefully it will have even more success after the project's expansion to cord blood donations scheduled for the future.
The development of medical tourism in Nigeria will bring about a new level of accesibility to state of the art, worldwide medical care. One of the ways Nigeria can earn respect as a “Giant of Africa” is to rise above the mentality of seeing anything foreign as better than domestic.
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