WILL the current debates about how much Nigerians spend on foreign medical treatments achieve anything? Are they meant to stop the practice? If public officers value only their own lives, what should other Nigerians do?
There are great points in expecting that our politicians and leaders should invest in the health sector in Nigeria. Millions of Nigerians are ailing. They cannot afford medical services abroad, an ambition reserved for the rich, or public officers, most of who warehouse national resources for their benefit.
Images of such public officers flash through the mind when pondering the N80 billion which the Senate said Nigerians spent on medical treatments abroad in 2012. The bulk of the expenditure reportedly went to India, the favourite destination for all ailments.
Why would government officials not trust the medical institutions that their policies provide? Have we thought of the security implications of our leaders being treated abroad? Other countries not only treat their sick leaders at home but at their military hospitals because of the security consequences of their leaders’ medical records falling into “wrong hands”.
It is worse that those who are supposed to ensure that public hospitals work after running the places aground, still have the privilege of getting treatment abroad at public expense.
Our general hospitals and health centres, the health facilities that are generally available to the people are in worsening states of neglect. Apex medical facilities like the National Hospital, Abuja, is not in a better shape. It is a mere glorified version of the public health centres and hospitals that lack the basic facilities they require to function.
The pecks of office of our leaders and top civil servants include annual foreign medical checkups. The public pays for them. How would people who go abroad at our expense to meet their medical needs have any concerns about the state of our hospitals?
It is a shame that there are no hospitals deemed good enough to treat these VIPs who go abroad at the slightest ache. Development of good hospitals is tied to infrastructure. Most of the good medical workers are in private practice or have gone abroad, in search of better working conditions.
While in other places their research institutes are tackling challenges and working with their health facilities in seeking solutions to illnesses and diseases that confront their people, a combination of poor funding and government disinterest are hurting our health services.
The billions of Naira Nigerians spend abroad annually on health services, would gradually be earned by Nigerian hospitals as their facilities improve. If our leaders patronise our hospitals, their patronage would help fasttrack some of the improvements required in our hospitals.