By GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE
BENIN—WORRIED by the alarming rate at which politicians and individuals rush to foreign countries for medical attention, which has led to the depletion of the country’s foreign reserve, the Federal Government, yesterday, said that only public servants, whose medical cases are approved by the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, would be allowed to seek treatment abroad.
Minister of Health, Prof. Chukwu Onyebuchi, weekend in Benin, Edo State, expressed concern over the increasing numbers of Nigerians detained in Indian hospitals and other countries on account of their inability to offset their medical bills, saying that his office had been inundated with series of letters requesting for assistance.
It was gathered that over N78 billion was lost annually through capital flight by Nigerians and public officials seeking medical treatment abroad.
“There are some Nigerians detained in other countries because they could not settle their medical bills. Some of them, their communities have written me letters for financial assistance as they cannot come back to Nigeria because they are owing. It is a big problem. There are things we have achieved in the last one year. For more than 10 years, we couldn’t do an open heart surgery in Nigeria, now two hospitals are doing it in Enugu and Ibadan.”
The minister, who was in Benin City, for the burial of the father of the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr Osahon Enabulele, harped on the need for Nigerians to take advantage of the National Health Insurance Policy, which he said should be made compulsory for all employers of labour for their employees.
On plans to curb unnecessary foreign medical trip abroad by public officials, he said “we have people who go abroad and they are in two classes, one are people, who are spending their private money, whether well-earned or not too well- earned. There are others, who are sponsored by other persons including religious bodies. The others are those sponsored by government whether at local, state or federal levels, but it is government sponsorship.”