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Medical Tourism: Nigerians eye $300m Ghanaian health facility

By Sola Ogundipe & Gabriel Olawale
Ghana looks set to Ghana looks set to  become the next medical tourism destination for Nigerians as attention shifts to emergence of the proposed Eco-Medical Hospital, a state-of-the-art international hospital complex in Accra.

The proposed Eco-Medical Hospital in Accra, Ghana.

 

This development, coupled with the complete shutdown of the multi-billion naira world class Ibom Specialist Hospital, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, is  creating more options for Nigerians to access world class health care and services in Africa.Findings by Health & Living Features reveal that even as the new hospital is about getting off the ground, prominent Nigerians have started making enquiries about the proposed healthcare facility, which when constructed, is reputed to become the largest private hospital in West Africa.

The proposed 500-ward (1,100 bed) medical facility is the result of a $300 million financial agreement signed in August 2017 between a Ghanaian investment firm, Eco Medical Village Limited, and  New York-based private equity firm, Milost Global Inc., under the Mesa Fund 1, a global opportunity fund.

The state-of-the-art medical facility that is to be built in Accra, Ghana, is expected to serve the medical tourism needs of the West Africa sub-region. Apart from the major facility in Accra, the hospital would have satellite units built in Nigeria and other countries within in the sub-region.Nigerians rate amongst the most enthusiastic medical tourists in the world.

Millions troop abroad annually and at least 50 per cent of these patients travelling abroad are headed for destinations in Europe, Asia, and America. Currently, Asia is the No. 1 destination for millions of  Nigerians who expend an average of $1 billion on medical tourism annually. In India, high brow health facilities such as Primus International Super Speciality Hospital, Fortis Hospital and Apollo Hospital, are favorites.Experts attribute this Capital flight to inadequate investment in the local health industry.

Practically all those travelling abroad do so to obtain value for money in healthcare.  Common ailments for which Nigerians travel abroad include those related to cardiology (heart disorders), orthopaedic (bone and skeletal), renal (kidney issues) and cancer. The penchant of Nigerian medical practitioners and  health professionals  recommending overseas medical treatment  for all kinds of ailments, particularly those that can be adequately treated in the country, is not helping matters.While Nigeria has enormous potential in the medical field, observers say the facilities needed to get value, quality and affordability.

The demise of the Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo, fashioned after the famous RAK Hospital, Dubai, is seen as a letdown.The ultra-modern health facility, valued at N41 billion, was shut down in September 2017 barely two years after it was commissioned.This development was as a result of disagreement between its private managers, Cardiocare Medical Services Ltd, and the state government.

NMA tackles FG
In a reaction, President of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Prof Mike Ogirima, said Nigeria should emulate Ghana in advancing medical treatment options for its people.Ogirima who noted that the Federal government is not taking health as seriously as it should, said that Ghana has long had history of a more organised health sector. “This is not the first time that Ghana is leading Nigeria in any sector.

Our children are going there to school, so it is not surprising that Ghana is more organised in terms of taking their issues seriously. “There have been existing hospitals there taking care of the interest of patients in spinal surgery, among other specialities, so if they are enlarging the scope of services, can I say it is a shame in Nigeria that Ghana should take the lead in that?“There are some private hospitals here that are coming up with a good set up for our patients, but our position on this is that Nigeria should try and emulate Ghana.”Further, Ogirima recalled that the government in the budget of 2018  planned to establish 7 Centres of Excellence by encouraging Public Private Partnership, so we what to see how that will materialise.“The NMA has been advocating for encouragement of PPP in our public hospitals.

That is the only way  we can get our hospitals to measure up with standard overseas.”In his own comment, the Minister of Health, prof Isaac Adewole  expressed optimism that Nigerian professionals and the private sector in collaboration with the Federal Government can do a lot with the skills in the country, but called for marketing of the skills of Nigerian medical preofessionals.“We need to advertise the skills available, the facilities that can do it and how we can work together. “We run down what we have, we create an impression that nothing is working and that is not correct. “There are centres here doing renal transplant, cardiac surgery and others, yet a lot of Nigerians go abroad for the same services.  So let us utilise our own facilities.”


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