Dr. Sunny Ukachakwu, Medical Director, Primus International Specialty Hospital, says medical tourism can only be discouraged if government curbs corruption and strengthens institutions in the health sector.
He was at the agency on a medical outreach with a team of doctors from the hospital.
“Every year we see billions of naira being allocated to health, but there is still nothing to show for it; everything anchors on corruption.
“You cannot step into any state and see a proper diagnostic center. And there is no way one can have the appropriate treatment without proper diagnosis.
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“The states allocate billions to health, even the Federal Government. The money has been going out, but the facilities are not there,’’ he said.
According to him, Nigeria has 100 per cent competent manpower but suffers a deficit in terms of medical equipment.
“We have the best doctors everywhere in the world, if we have this equipment here, they will be encouraged to come home. If we deal with corruption we will get every sector right,’’ he said.
Ukachukwu said that Primus, which commenced operations in 2011, had the mandate to make medical care more accessible and affordable to Nigerians.
“Primus started its services on April 1, 2011. Considering the backwardness of the medical industry in this country, some foreign partners decided to invest in the sector.
“Services that were expected were secondary and tertiary and since 2011, the hospital has been on its feet working towards improved service delivery.
“From then till now, we have done so many spine surgeries, brain surgeries, knee replacement, and many others.
“So many cases that Nigerians travel abroad to handle, Primus Hospital is delivering those services here.
“We have one of the best Neuro Spine Surgeon with 25 years of experience. We have one of the best Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor.
“We have all it takes to make our health sector one of the best in the world, but we need to change our orientation, we need to re-arrange our mindsets and try to believe in us as Nigerians.
“The fact remains that most of the patients that go out for medical tourism are being referred abroad by Nigerian doctors. That means that those doctors do not believe in Nigeria,’’ Ukachukwu said.
He said that Primus Hospital’s Neuro Spine Surgeons had redone some surgeries that were carried out in India.
“That tells you that we are still better than them. If we believe in us, there are places we can go in this country and get first-class medical attention,’’ he said.
Dr. Tony Momoh, Medical Superintendent of the hospital, who was also at the forum, said that most Nigerians who traveled overseas on medical tourism did not need to do so.
Momoh said advised government to carry out a proper assessment of patients before granting them approval to travel for medical care.
“Most of the people who go outside for medical attention have no business going there.
“It is due to the insincerity of medical practitioners, and until the government carries out a proper assessment of patients before visas are given out, our hard-earned foreign exchange will continue to be spent unnecessarily.
“ Most of those people are not going for medical treatment. They go for tourism, to go and buy gold and some other things, some of them go to do other vices outside the country,’’ he said.
Momoh, however, said that services of the hospital were accessible and qualitative.
“Our services are good and affordable. Our services are more affordable than any center that renders similar services here in Abuja.
“We have on-time delivery of services, and we revisit our patients through text messages and e-mails to find out how they are faring, and we have spread our tentacles across Nigeria,’’ he said.