The awkward trend of public officeholders getting foreign medical services at public expense is self-serving, immoral and condemnable. It is, therefore, heartwarming that the House of Representatives is walking on the path of justice to undo the exploitative pastime of a privileged few. But beyond sanctions for violators, the House should, by extension, push for an effective and efficient health system in the country.
Against the backdrop of dwindling foreign reserves and biting economic realities, the lower chamber of the National Assembly again pushed to curb foreign medical trips by government officials. The worry is that such medical tourism has gone reckless and the privilege abused at the expense of the State and its scarce resources. A conservative estimate puts medical tourism at an average of $2.5 billion (N1.04 trillion) a year. To push back on the prodigal spending, Reps is walking the ropes of an Act that prescribes a jail term of seven years and/or a fine of N500 million for officials who spend public funds on foreign medical trips. The bill has graciously passed the second reading. The Sergius Ogun-proposed legislation is not the first to attempt an amendment to the National Health Act 2014, to raise a reasonable barrier against foreign medical trips, which is thriving at the expense of creating such services at home. It is, perhaps, the first time a serious effort is dissipated at discouraging violation of the rules, and that is commendable.
Regrettably, over the years the rapid decline of medical facilities and services has continued to force Nigerians to seek life-saving treatment abroad. The brain drain that began in 1985 has consistently robbed the country of practicing physicians and specialists to cater for its 200 million people. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) has it that for any country to claim to have enough doctors for its population, it should have one doctor for every 600 persons. It, therefore, means that Nigeria needs about 300,000 medical doctors, but has less than 35,000 working in the country currently. Yet, it is sad to note that these few working medical officials do not have a conducive environment. Of course, the consequence of this is grave with several avoidable deaths and medical errors recorded routinely. These morgues, pretending to be hospitals, have caused the country so much in capital flight, as patients lack confidence in the sector.
As a matter of fact, the right to medical care, whenever and Read More
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