Stakeholders in Nigeria’s health sector have urged the government on the need to adapt a holistic approach to harnessing the potential benefits of domestic medical tourism in the country while also considering how international organizations can contribute to this endeavor.
The call was contained in a communiqué following the just concluded All Africa Medical and Wellness Expo which came up recently in Abuja. Highlights of the event include papers delivered by professionals in the Health and as well the tourism sector featured panel discussions centered on the theme “Developing Sustainable Domestic Medical Tourism for Nigeria.”
Minister of State Health and Social Welfare Hon. Tunji Alausa, who was represented by hisDr. David Atuwo, representing the Minister of State Health and Social Welfare Hon. Tunji AlausaDr. David Atuwo, declared the event open emphasizing the need for collaboration amongst stakeholders, one he identifies as a wholistic approach improving healthcare services in Nigeria.
“Ongoing investment in healthcare infrastructure is critical. We must ensure that our healthcare facilities meet international standards in terms of equipment, hygiene, and accessibility. This will not only attract medical tourists but also benefit our own citizens.’
“We recognize the vital role that international organizations play in Africa’s healthcare sector. Their contributions in terms of funding, technical assistance, capacity building, and advocacy have significantly improved health outcomes across the continent.
“Furthermore, we have explored the ethical and legal concerns inherent in the practice of medicine in Nigeria. The intersection of medical ethics and legal standards is fundamental to ensuring the integrity of the medical profession and safeguarding the rights of both practitioners and patients.
“Ongoing investment in healthcare infrastructure is critical. We must ensure that our healthcare facilities meet international standards in terms of equipment, hygiene, and accessibility. This will not only attract medical tourists but also benefit our own citizens.
“We need to invest in the training and development of healthcare professionals, ensuring that they are well-equipped to handle complex medical cases. This will enhance the reputation of our healthcare system and encourage medical tourists to choose Nigeria.
“Developing and enforcing a robust regulatory framework for medical tourism is essential. This will protect patients’ rights, ensure ethical medical practices, and foster trust in our healthcare system, as a result, we must actively promote Nigeria as a medical tourism destination.
“And collaborations with international agencies and partnerships with healthcare providers worldwide can help us reach a global audience while we continue to encourage medical research and innovation to stay at the forefront of medical advancements. This will not only attract medical tourists but also benefit our own citizens.”
Dr. Yemi Johnson who delivered a paper on the journey so far for the Nigerian health sector noted that in the last 15 years, there has been a steady rejuvenation in Orthopaedic practice, with sub-specialization in areas such as Invasive cardiology, Interventional cardiology, Closure of “holes in the heart” surgically and non surgically, Open heart surgery, CABG, valve replacement, Hip and knee joint replacement, Spine surgery for degenerative diseases, deformities and Trauma, Limb lengthening and reconstruction, Arthroscopy and sports medicine. , Complex trauma (including pelvic fracture fixation), Paediatric orthopaedics (Trauma, deformity correction and congenital anomalies correction), Hand surgery and Orthopaedic Oncology and limb sparing surgery. He however expressed concern that much more is yet to be achieved especially since everything is imported.
He also commented on the impact of the ‘Japa Syndrome’ which has seen a huge exodus of some of the best minds in medicine leave the country for better opportunities abroad. According to him, most of them will come back home if the situation improves’
“It is a natural phenomenon, we have gone through this many times. I am one of the early ‘Japa’ people, and I’m back. My Teachers ‘japaed’ too, they came back. You go ther and gain the experience you don’t have, and you come back here and make use of it. So it all good, we just need to make the environment more convenient and more welcoming for these young people and they will come back.
“It’s not just money, its been able to carry out your profession, where you can utilize your skills. Its not juts money, its about lifestyle. Yes, it is impacting on the health sector negatively, but it is only in the short term as we just have to look ahead. And that’s where innovation comes in, its when you are in need of something that you find a way out of it. So we will find our way out of this.’’
Other papers presented include “Ethical & Legal Concern in Medical Practise in Nigeria by Barrister Rekia Racheal Adejo-Andrew, “The role of International organizations in Africa’s Healthcare by Dr. Zainab Suleiman, Nigeria’s access to quality healthcare by Dr. Akor Godday, “Technology Advancement & Artificial Intelligence for healthcare service in Nigeria by Dr. Seun Akin-Paul, and “How Medical Tourism would impact on Nigeria’s Healthcare system by Dr. Prem Jayasi.
Panel discussions also featured conversations bordering on ethical and legal concerns in medical practice in Nigeria, moderated by Barrister Rekia Adejo-Andrew, and Collaboration between healthcare service providers and medical tourism professionals, moderated by medical tourism expert from India Ms. Vidya Rani, with Dr. Prem Jagyasi, Dr. Mohammad Afzal, Mr. Enenta Godwin and President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) Mrs. Susan Akporiaye represented by Vice President of the Abuja chapter of the Association Mrs. Ibiwari Kemabonta.
At the end of the session, there was a consensus that the Nigerian government should evolve a strategy and working document that would position the nation as a hub for medical tourism in Africa. According to the speakers, in order to achieve this goal, government must ensure the provision of quality Healthcare Services in the country with continued investment in improving the quality of healthcare delivery within Nigeria, focusing on advanced medical procedures and holistic patient-centered care.
The argue that the development and enforcement of a robust regulatory framework for medical tourism, emphasizing ethical practices, patient rights, and trust in the healthcare system is one that will go a long way for the sector, while encouraging medical research and innovation to stay at the forefront of medical advancements, benefitting both local citizens and medical tourists.
The need to actively promote Nigeria as a medical tourism destination through collaborations with international agencies and partnerships with global healthcare providers was also emphasized.
They argue that healthcare infrastructure development is an investment that must be ongoing in order to meet international standards in terms of equipment, hygiene, and accessibility, as this will attract both domestic and international medical tourists to the country.
It was also agreed that the government must invest in the development of nation’s health workforce to enable healthcare professionals handle complex medical cases, thereby enhancing the reputation of Nigeria’s healthcare system.
This united call to action underscores the collective commitment stakeholders in Nigeria’s health and tourism sectors to building a healthier and more prosperous Nation. They urge government bodies, healthcare professionals, private sector entities, and international organizations to collaborate in realizing this vision.