Nigeria’s medical tourism spending rises by over 40%

Nigeria spent a total of $1.04m on foreign healthcare-related services in the first quarter of 2023, The PUNCH has learnt.

The total spending for the period under review was obtained from the quarterly statistical bulletin of the Central Bank of Nigeria for Q1 2023.

The PUNCH observed that the amount spent in Q1 2023 was an increase of 40.54 per cent from the $0.74m spent in Q1 2022.

A breakdown shows that medical tourism gulped $0.34m in January 2023, $0.32m in February 2023, and the amount increased to $0.38m in March 2023.

Many Nigerian leaders and politicians travel abroad to seek medical treatment in the face of crises in the health sector, poor primary health care system, poor facilities, brain drain, and disease outbreaks, among others.

It will be recalled that former President Muhammadu Buhari repeatedly travelled out of the country for medical treatment.

The PUNCH reported in May that Buhari, his wife, and his son, Yusuf, spent over 250 days abroad for medical treatment.

Commenting on the report, the National Vice Chairman of the Joint Health Sector Unions, Dr Obinna Ogbonna, said corruption, bad management, and poor infrastructure were to blame for the poor state of the Nigerian health care system, fuelling medical tourism.

“Nigerians who are well-to-do lack confidence in our medical facilities. Even though we have well-trained personnel that can handle all medical cases, the infrastructure and the equipment are not adequate. These prefer to spend their money abroad, but when they get there, it is still Nigerian doctors that will attend to them.

“We hope President Bola Tinubu will make our health centres attractive by putting up standard infrastructures and equipment that are up-to-date with the current emerging diseases ravaging the country,” Ogbonna stated.

Also, a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Julian Ojebo, frowned on the thinking of the African political class that they must travel abroad for medical treatment.

To reverse the trend, Dr Ojebo said, “There is a need for a health scheme, private sector involvement, ease of doing business in the health system, tax waivers, waivers on import duties, foreign training for the trainers, and political class to use local facilities from primary to tertiary care. However, all of these can only be achieved through proper legislation.”

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