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Opinion: Why Medical Tourism?

In a world where boundaries blur, and challenges persist, the stark reality of a nation’s health infrastructure reflects its leadership’s commitment to its people.

Recent events in Nigeria, punctuated by the loss of influential figures like Chief of Staff Abba Kyari and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and many others, underscore a deep-rooted issue: the persistent reliance on foreign medical treatment due to the inadequacies of local healthcare systems, although seemingly different cases.

According to Punch Newspaper, the former president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had spent at least 225 days away from the country on medical trips from 2015 to 2023. Even President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not sparred his administration of such medical tourism since assuming office.

The passing of Abba Kyari due to COVID-19 in 2020 unveils the vulnerabilities ingrained within Nigeria’s healthcare infrastructure. Not just his case, COVID-19 was supposed to be a big lesson for the leaders of the nation to invest heavily in the health structure.

However, the deaths of the two prominent leaders are of different cases but both cases share a common thread: seeking treatment overseas due to the absence of world-class medical facilities within the country’s borders.

Kyari’s battle with COVID-19 and Akeredolu’s struggle against prostate cancer, as reported, highlights the systemic deficiencies that afflict not just the common citizen but even those in the echelons of power.

Despite Nigeria’s potential and position as a regional powerhouse, the narrative of medical tourism persists among its elite. This reliance on foreign medical care is symptomatic of a deeper issue—the lack of investment in robust healthcare infrastructure.

The current state of affairs is a glaring reminder of the systemic failure to prioritize healthcare as a fundamental right rather than a privilege reserved for the few.

The COVID-19 pandemic, a global catastrophe that spared no nation, was expected to serve as a wake-up call for countries to fortify their healthcare systems. 

Yet, the aftermath remains eerily unchanged. African leaders, including Nigeria, continue to grapple with antiquated health systems ill-prepared to combat pandemics and everyday health challenges.

The deaths of Kyari and Akeredolu are not isolated incidents but symptomatic of a larger issue—a perpetual cycle where leaders seek medical solace abroad, leaving behind a population struggling to access even basic healthcare services.

It’s a stark juxtaposition: the privileged few flying out for treatment while the masses grapple with under-resourced hospitals and a lack of essential medical supplies.

Efforts to bolster Nigeria’s healthcare system remain mired in bureaucratic inertia and insufficient allocation of resources. The absence of comprehensive health policies, coupled with inadequate infrastructure, perpetuates a vicious cycle of reliance on foreign medical care. 

It’s imperative to channel resources, expertise, and commitment toward building a robust healthcare system that caters to the needs of all citizens. 

Our leaders must learn to galvanize a concerted effort to prioritize health infrastructure as a national priority rather than perpetuating a system where leaders must seek medical treatment overseas.

 

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