According to governor Lyel Imoke of Cross River State, tourism is one sector where it holds a comparative advantage over other Nigerian states, although development of a tourist economy is at a very early stage. The local tourism bureau has been reformed, and is now looking for the private sector to invest in tourism.
According to governor Lyel Imoke of Cross River State, tourism is one sector where it holds a comparative advantage over other Nigerian states, although development of a tourist economy is at a very early stage. The local tourism bureau has been reformed, and is now looking for the private sector to invest in tourism. Governor Imoke says, “We believe that there is a growing demand for standard healthcare and specialist healthcare delivery. We are also embarking on a project that will be the first medical tourism facility in Nigeria.”
Nigeria has a problem with outbound medical tourism, according to local doctors. A consultant orthopedic surgeon, Dr Felix Ogedegbe of Cedarcrest Hospitals, has been warning that the rate at which Nigerians seek medical attention abroad is gradually killing the country’s health sector and demoralizing medical practitioners in the country. He represents a group of doctors who warn of, “ The many risks involved when Nigerians decide to shop for medical treatment abroad, as in most cases they tend to compound their illness instead of curing it. Apart from the huge expenses involved, which if pumped into the health sector would yield positive result, many patients and their relatives have no clue about the doctors treating them and whether they are truly qualified to carry out the prescribed treatment. If this trend is not stopped and attention not focused on resuscitating the collapsing health sector, years from now the country will not have a health sector to boast of. Patients have returned from these countries with much more than bargained for. Some have had the wrong operation, unnecessary procedures and treatments and others have significant, lingering and life long complications. Although most hospitals have medical malpractice insurance to cover any unforeseen events, seeking damages is often impossible in cases of negligence, misdiagnosis or incompetence. There is a lack of follow up even when the treatment or operation has been concluded, demoralizing local doctors who feel unappreciated, leading to a brain drain of medical practitioners and most importantly the loss of $260 million to India for medical tourism.”
Another surgeon, Dr Biodun Ogungbo, alleges that some doctors in Nigeria encourage patients to go to overseas hospitals abroad in exchange for a percentage of the treatment fees for every referral, “We have heard reports of patients and their relatives being asked to become touts in Nigeria for some hospitals abroad for a percentage of the treatment cost. Nigerian should embrace the culture of suing hospitals and doctors who assault, maim or kill their relatives as misdiagnoses, wrong treatment and unprofessional conduct should be punished”.
Although the Indian government is keen on promoting medical tourism, Indian High Commissioner Suresh Makhijani, perhaps unwisely, distances the government from any problems, “Medical tourism in India has nothing to do with the government. It is a private sector affair. Our duty here in the embassy is to grant visas to the patient and a family member. We have nothing to do with the hospital.”
There may be a solution that keeps patients and doctors happy. Rather than patients going to India, Indian hospitals see a potential in opening hospitals in Nigeria. The 120-bed Primus International Super Specialty Hospital has opened in Karu, a suburb of Abuja. Achia Dewan of Primus International says, We aim establish a network of world class centres in health care by providing state of the art facility and the creation of ethical, compassionate patient care through professional excellence. The need to reduce the cost of travel for prospective Nigerian patients was a key reason for building the hospital.”
The hospital is keen to encourage inbound medical tourism as it has set up a special division to look after the needs of international patients.