Africa: Nigerians still travel in droves for healthcare, despite Central Bank’s N100bn COVID-19 intervention fund to halt medical tourism

Medical tourism

Nigerians are still travelling in large numbers to seek medical care abroad despite the N100billion COVID-19 intervention fund made available by Central Bank of Nigeria to improve infrastructural facilities in the sector in response to the in response to the pandemic in 2020.

Stakeholders have lamented that the N100billion COVID-19 intervention fund to the country’s health sector has failed to achieve its objective of reducing medical tourism by Nigerians.

According to sunnewsonline.com, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had extended credit facility of N100 billion to support healthcare and drug manufacturers to upgrade their facilities and capacity to produce locally to stem medical tourism out of the country.

The intervention was aimed at stimulate economic activities in the sector locally, so that pharmaceutical products and services would be readily available to service Nigerians, thereby diversifying and expanding local capacity of the sector.

The scheme is expected to increase private and public investment in the healthcare sector, facilitate improvements in healthcare delivery and reduce medical tourism to enhance foreign exchange conservation.

Regrettably despite this huge intervention, available records show that Nigerians are still traveling in droves to other countries to attend to their health challenges.

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In his reaction, Chairman, Apapa branch of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, (MAN), Mr Frank Onyebu, opined that the N100billion would really not solve Nigeria’s healthcare problems, as people still going on medical tourism have the right to do so as the local pharmaceutical industry alone cannot solve that problem.

He lamented that Nigerian medical personnel are still leaving the country due to poor working conditions, while some obsolete facilities in most hospitals in the country are yet to be replaced by the government. “So because of the lack of capacity and facilities or infrastructure, those who have the resources to get better treament overseas are still traveling for medical tourism.” He said.

Prescribing research as part of the solutions to manufacturing our own raw materials, he noted that the N100billion was basically for the pharmaceutical companies to improve there production capacity because at that period when the pandemic was rife, the supply chain was interrupted.

“We have to start now when there is no COVID-19, to jettison this our fire brigade approach towards issues and build working institutions across sectors.

We need to start from research principles. Get to know how we can manufacture basic raw materials here,” adding that most pharmaceutical companies get their inputs from outside the country.

“We need to manufacture such basic inputs, if we don’t, when such issues arise again, we we will be in a big trouble.” He advised.

He noted the money some of companies collected were more or else to improve on what they already had,because it was insufficient to install machines.

Onyebu further said “There are people who will travel abroad for any reason, especially people who are in government for medical tourism. However, that is not to say the medical facilities in this country are good enough. We still have a long way to go.

“The N100billion would really not solve Nigeria’s problem. We need to ask what the state of the sector was before the pandemic. Most of the companies are appendages of companies abroad. Most companies assemble their products here. So, the money they collected was more or else to improve on what they have.

But we not yet where we ought to be. So any body still going on medical tourism still has the right to because the pharmaceutical sector will not solve that problem all by itself. Medical doctors are relocating abroad because the conditions here are not right.

“If we want our medical institutions to work, they will work. Our turning point is to make sure we retain our medical personnel. The condition or environment needs to be right for investment for the medical sector to thrive. There are so many problems with our institutions not just our medical institution. I don’t think any amount of money can solve that problem if the environment is not conducive.

“Government needs to start building all sectors from the scratch. We need to get into research, we are not doing enough, the universities need funding to go into research to boost the sector.”

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