$1bn spent by Nigerians on medical tourism outrageous – Expert

An expert and medical director, Alliance Hospital, Dr. Christopher Otabor, has again decried the amount of money spent by Nigerians seeking medical treatment abroad, saying it was becoming outrageous.

Otabor, who put the figure at $1 billion dollar, has called on the federal government, stakeholders’ in the sector to increase budgetary allocation and invest in the health care system as a way of curbing the trend.

He also challenged well-to-do individuals in the society to look the way of medicare, saying considering the vast population of Nigerians peg at over 200 million coupled with medical challenges, investors should start looking beyond oil and gas and should focus on health.

The renowned medical expert who was a guest speaker and awardees, stated this while giving presentations at the maiden African Health and Medical Service Awards Nigeria, held in Abuja weekend.

Other speakers at the event were the executive secretary, TETFUND, Sonny Echono, the vice chancellor, Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo (FUHSO), Benue state, Professor Innocent Ujah and the representative of the Minister of Health, Mr Tunji Alausa among others.

In his lecture titled; ‘How to achieve zero health tourism,’ the guest speaker, harped on the implementation of 15% budgetary as stipulated by the Abuja declaration and expressed regrets that not 8% has been spent on the sector by the Nigerian government, who was part of the agreement.

On the way forward, he charged the government to as a matter of urgency fix the sector to be able to combat medical emergencies, embrace modern equipment and up to date technologies and follow religiously the renewed hope agenda for the sector, saying it would help reduce drastically medical tourism abroad.

“When people move across international borders like India, UK, USA, Dubai, Turkey, Germany Egypt and so on, for treatment such as cancer, spine surgery, implant, deformity, kidney transplant or even maternal care to mention a few, a lot of money running into $1bn dollar is involved and it is killing not only the economy but also the sector.

Otabor advocated loan support, tax holiday, investment in health care services by private citizens and organisations like it is done outside the country and increased health budgetary allocations as a way out.

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