The federal government is to ban public officers from traveling abroad for medical treatment, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, told journalists, in Abuja, yesterday.
He said that the manner Nigerians travel abroad for medical treatment is not acceptable and that he is preparing a memo for the Federal Executive council, FEC, which will stop public officers from wasting public funds on foreign medical trips.
The only exception, according to him, will be a situation where the capacity to handle such a medical problem does not exist in Nigeria.
In the event that a public officer insists on foreign medical trip, public funds will not be used and the person has to bear the cost, as a private individual, Prof. Chukwu explained.
His words, “I am preparing a memo which will soon be presented to the council to stop public officers from foreign medical treatment. If a public officer says no, I don’t want treatment in Nigeria, I want to travel abroad for treatment, no problem, you are free but you will not use public funds for that so long as it can be done in Nigeria”.
The minister regretted that fraudulent slant has even been introduced into the issue of foreign medical trips whereby criminally minded doctors connive with foreign hospitals to rip-off Nigerian patients by referring such patients to those foreign hospitals and agree with such Nigerian doctors to be paid between 10-15 per cent of the medical bills as kickback.
“The other reason why people go abroad is the one that is the most disturbing to me as Hon. Minister of Health. What is it? Some unscrupulous doctors and other health practitioners because of money being made conspire with foreign practitioners.For instance, if Prof. Chukwu as a doctor, refers you to some of these countries, 10 -15 per cent of whatever money you pay there comes back to me. So is now a commercial motivation. So once you tell them that you have a chest problem, they will say aah, you have a heart disease and then they will refer you. It is as bad as that”, he said.
Doctor Chukwu also noted that many doctors, health professionals and patients themselves are ignorant of medical facilities and expertise available in the country and that some of the cases for which many people travel abroad can be effectively treated in Nigeria.
“As Honourable Minister of Health, none of my relatives has been referred abroad.”