NMA urges political office holders to fix Nigeria’s health system, end medical tourism 

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Angela Onwuzoo

The Nigerian Medical Association has urged political office holders in the country to end medical tourism and fix the country’s fragile health system.

The NMA also prays for Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s quick and complete recovery from leg surgery.

Recall that the vice-president had on Saturday undergone leg surgery at the Duchess International Hospital, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos.

Medical doctors, who performed the surgical operation on Osinbajo described it as successful.

However, in a statement released on Sunday by the President of the NMA, Dr. Uche Ojinmah made available to PUNCH HealthWise, the association commended the Vice-President for demonstrating confidence in the Nigerian doctor and the country’s health care system.

The statement read, “NMA wishes to thank God for seeing our

Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo through surgery.

“All Nigerian doctors are praying for his quick and complete recovery.

“NMA hereby also commends Mr.Vice,-President for demonstrating confidence in the Nigerian doctor and healthcare system.

“We are certain that he was impressed. We call on other political office holders in Nigeria to emulate the Vice President and end medical tourism.

“It is time to fix our fragile healthcare system to the benefit of the common man and our economy.”

Ojinmah said the time for action is now, urging those concerned to do the needful.

Osinbajo’s Spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, had posted a statement from the hospital confirming that the vice-president had a successful leg surgery on Saturday at the Duchess International Hospital, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos.

“The vice-president was admitted to Duchess International Hospital, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, today on account of a fracture of his right femur (thigh bone), possibly related to a longstanding injury associated with a game of squash.

“He had a surgical operation performed by a team of specialist doctors, including Dr. Wallace Ogufere, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dr. Om Lahoti, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Dr. Babajide Lawson, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon.

“Others were Dr. Ken Adegoke, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Critical Care, Dr. Oladimeji Agbabiaka, Consultant Anaesthetist, and Dr. Adedoyin Dosunmu-Ogunbi, Consultant Physician and Medical Director.

“The operation was successful and Osinbajo is expected to be discharged within the next few days,” Dosunmu-Ogunbi said.

While Osinbajo sought treatment at home, his principal, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), has a preference for foreign medical care, a situation that has continued to anger many Nigerians.

NMA has continued to express displeasure at the neglect suffered by the health sector amid the president’s frequent medical trips.

Seven years and two months since his regime began on May 29, 2015, President Buhari has spent over 201 days on medical leave based, according to information made public by the presidency.

The presidential clinic caters to the president, vice president, their families, and members of staff of the presidential villa, Abuja.

Despite the existence of the presidential clinic, Buhari’s preference for foreign medical care has remained a concern to stakeholders in the health sector.

Stakeholders in the health sector say the attraction to foreign health care by political office holders demonstrated the failure of leadership.

According to them, the continued patronage of foreign hospitals by privileged Nigerians, including the president and his immediate family, has increased the lack of confidence in the sector, thereby increasing medical tourism and wastage of public funds on such adventures.

Immediate past General Secretary of the NMA, Dr. Philip Eke, in an earlier interview with PUNCH Healthwise on the president’s frequent medical trip, credited the private sector for a majority of the development recorded in the health sector.

He said, “We could have committed more funds to make the health sector better. But unfortunately, it is even the private sector that is improving the health sector, not the public sector, because the government is not even buying equipment.

“It may seem as if the workers are paid relatively higher, but that money is nothing when the cost of food is very high. By and large, I don’t think there is much improvement in the health indices in the country as expected. The private sector has done a whole lot trying to improve the health sector.

“But one thing again is that the behaviour of the public office holders tells you that there has not been any improvement in the health sector because if they had improved the health sector, they would have the confidence to stay and get treated.”

“What is the illness that the president has that we don’t have the personnel or manpower in Nigeria to treat such that he has to travel out of the country? 

“That tells you that even if he does not trust the system and if the President does not trust the system, it means he is not leading by example and means other public office holders will also leave.”

According to him, the neglect of the health sector has been a major reason for the brain drain in the sector with many health workers moving to Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and other developed countries.

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