Senate maps out plans to discourage medical tourism

Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, has said that the ninth National Assembly will see to the establishment of a minimum of one specialised health facility to be designated centre of excellence in each of the nation’s geopolitical zones.

Speaking on sidelines of a town hall meeting he held with constituents of Kwara Central Senatorial District where he gave an account of his stewardship in almost seven months in the Senate, Oloriegbe said that the ninth National Assembly has mapped out strategies to discourage medical tourism abroad with the resuscitation of specialized centres in federal tertiary hospitals.

Oloriegbe, who spoke in Ilorin at the weekend, said the move was to enable Nigerians to undergo treatment locally, thus reducing quest for treatment in foreign countries.

He explained that some Nigerians travel abroad for treatment due to lack of information on the availability of manpower and equipment needed in local hospitals.

The legislator informed that cancer fund had been created with the 2020 budget, pointing out that one of the issues responsible for treatment abroad was the availability of certain specialised equipment.

He said the Senate had agreed with stakeholders to establish a database to link all hospitals with media broadcast to keep Nigerians abreast of what are available.

Oloriegbe stated that brain drain in the medical profession was also being tackled with the provision of fund for Residency Training Programme, adding that talks are ongoing with the Federal Ministry of Health to make available incentives for medical practitioners in the country.

“Medical tourism is a major issue we considered in the 2020 budget. As the Chairman Health Committee, we discussed extensively on how we can reduce it to the barest minimum; we engaged stakeholders including the Federal Ministry of Health and heads of federal tertiary hospitals.

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“Of course, there are many reasons why people go abroad for treatment. There are those we cannot prevent, those who have the resources. They are not going because of lack of manpower or services here; they are going because they just believe they want the best hotels and Nigerians are those treating them.

“What we want to do is to identify a minimum of at least one centre per geopolitical zones that will be designated centre of excellence to treat what makes Nigerians go out. Part of the main issue is the availability of certain specialised equipment, and we have used the 2020 budget to create a cancer fund.

“We have also looked at the budget of various teaching hospitals and we identified some hospitals where we have allocated resources to make them do better. National Hospital is one of such. If you look at the 2020 budget, it didn’t come from the executive; it was our initiative, to put certain resources in the National Hospital for a certain area of cancer treatment.

“We looked at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital; it has a Centre for bone marrow transplantation, which has been abandoned for many years. We put resources for this. There is an Accident and Emergency at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, which the previous government had done concession. We said they should recover it and we put resources for this to be able to address that.

“We identified that we do have some manpower that are not even known. Some people go out of this country due to the ignorance of the availability of manpower and equipment to manage that. So, we agreed to establish a database that will be linked to all hospitals and then there will be also a media broadcast to enable Nigerians to be aware of what is available. We are really working hard to do that.

“Secondly is the Nigerian doctors or health professionals going abroad. We are able to address this through the provision of fund for Residency Training Programme, and we are also discussing with the Ministry of Health on how to create certain incentives that will enable Nigerian professionals to stay in Nigeria,” Oloriegbe said.

The legislator said the town meeting was to serve as a feedback mechanism for his constituents and to also get their inputs on his representation.

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