The COVID-19 pandemic has served to save the Nigerian state of Niger N300 million (US$0.73 million), as the state paid for no outbound medical tourism in 2020.
According to the Niger State Commissioner for Health, Niger State saved over N300 million (US$0.73 million) that would have been spent on medical tourism in 2020. Estimates of the cost of outbound medical tourism to the country overall vary from US$400 million to US$2 billion.
Niger State has spent the savings on reviving the medical system, in an attempt to reduce future outbound medical travel costs. The Niger State Commissioner made the problem very clear; “In the Niger State Ministry of Health, we are trying to kill medical tourism abroad because if we do not kill it, it will kill the Ministry of Health. This is because the money taken for medical assistance abroad is taken from our overheads. It is horrible and has put the health sector in an emergency state. While domestic medical tourism is also very costly, we are very concerned about international medical tourism because 90% of people benefiting from international medical tourism are not using their resources but that of government.”
COVID-19 reduced international medical tourism, and that gave the national government room to reflect on how to revive the health system. Several new healthcare projects have been started.
The University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) has embarked on a massive upgrade of its facilities and is Nigeria’s second largest teaching hospital with a bed capacity of 850. It is seeking to attract patients from the West African sub-region and other parts of the world. The aim is to make the hospital a centre for medical tourism in the West Africa sub-region. Targeted countries include:
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Ivory Coast
- Sierra Leone
UBTH services include oncology, laser surgery and a 10-bed dialysis centre. The hospital will also soon resuscitate its stem cell transplant programme.
UBTH has several ancillary services to support its goal of becoming a destination of inbound medical tourism. This includes a Premium Service, established to meet the needs of clients from any part of the world seeking access to specialised services offered by the hospital.
UBTH claims to be the only hospital in the world with an 18-hole golf course, with a hotel and clubhouse attached.