By Luminous Jannamike
ABUJA – The Senator representing Kogi West in the National Assembly, Dino Melaye, has traced the rising spate of medical tourism among Nigerians to the failure of political leaders to provide basic health infrastructures for the citizens of this country.
He observed that as a country that has an estimated population of 200 million, Nigeria had no cardio-thoracic centre that handles heart emergencies.
Melaye stated this when he addressed journalists on the sideline of a fund raising event tagged ‘Nigerians4Nigeria’ organized by Global Initiative for Peace, Love and Care (GIPLC) in Abuja.
He however affirmed the federal government’s commitment to addressing the situation which he described as pathetic and pitiable.
He said: “Nigerians embark on medical tourism and vacations; because there is an outrageously calamitous situation in the health sector in this country. We have a system that is not working.
“Were our health facilities in this country in wonderful shape, we would not need to fly anybody overseas for medical treatment.
“Nigeria with a population of about 200 million people does not have one single cardio-thoracic centre. Today, if there is a heart emergency, the survival rate is zero.
“Ghana has a population of 18 million people yet it is about completing its second national cardio-thoracic centre.
“The most pathetic aspect of it is that we 34 Nigerian cardiologists currently working in Ghana National cardio-thoracic centre. It is a sorry state.
“I am not in the executive arm of government. I am a legislator but I want to categorically say that the health system in this country is in a very pitiable situation and it didn’t start yesterday and it cannot be solved within four years.
“I tell all the political leaders in this country, myself inclusive, that we have failed in our responsibility of providing basic health infrastructures for the citizens of this country.
“I hope by this democratic evangelism, political leaders in this country will sit-up and fix what needs to be fixed in the health sector.
“But I want to assure you that the APC government is doing all they can within their powers to correct the situation.
“We should give the improvement of health facilities in this country the same drive we are giving the fight against corruption.”
In a related development, a civil society group known as Partners to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH-Nigeria), yesterday said systemic failure in the health sector is to blame for the high rate of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV in the country.
The group stated this in a press statement issued in Abuja on its behalf by the National Coordinator of Association of Positive Youths Living with HIV (APYIN), Isah Mohammed.
According to him, government health agencies at all levels are not doing enough to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.
“There is some systemic error in government health agencies when it comes to reducing stigma and discrimination against HIV positive youths especially if the effort will not amount to Naira and Kobo in peoples’ pocket.
“The poor youth-friendliness in government-owned healthcare facilities and the attitude of healthcare workers makes access to HIV treatment difficult and unattractive for young people.
“Sadly, due to stigma and discrimination, young people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria go through all forms of human right violations that expose them to isolation, low self-esteem and lack of interest in seeking help or accessing services,” Mohammed said.
He added that: “The care and support programme which had in the past helped to improve the livelihood and dignity of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and their families is fading out of the national response plan.”
According to him, “this is because the government has no tangible, coordinated effort aimed at providing legal aid for indigent PLHIV since they are more likely to face stigma and discrimination.
“We must not fail to state that the National and States Agencies for the Control of AIDS (NACA and SACAs) are also not fully committed to the implementation of the Anti-HIV Discrimination Act of 2014.
“If NACA were to tell the world how they have spent global fund money, believe me all the executives would be sitting on the table not on chairs.
“But have you heard anything from NACA concerning how they are publicizing the anti-stigma law? NACA has not really given very significant details concerning its sensitization plan.
“There is so little that we can do as a civil society but there is much more the government can do to build peace among Nigerian youths through stigma reduction.”
“We hope to find a government driven HIV discrimination effort not pockets of CSO interventions,” he said.