Osinbajo’s medical patriotism

Vice President Yemi Osibanjo recently had surgery on account of a recurrent pain in the leg sustained while playing squash. The surgical operation was successful and he is fast recovering as stated by his spokesperson, Laolu Akande.

However, the decision Professor Osibanjo to patronise our hospital for the operation instead of flying abroad has become the topic of discussion among Nigerians. Nigerian ruling elite and those who can afford have a penchant for medical tourism.

Sometimes, they jet out to foreign hospitals to treat even common sickness such as headache and cold. The prevelance of medical tourism has led to the collapse of Nigeria’s health sector with many hospitals becoming mere consulting clinics bereft state-of-the-art facilities.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which hit the world, Nigeria inclusive, in 2020 had further exposed the rot in our health sector. Little wonder, Osibanjo’s medical patriotism has been attracting commendations not only from ordinary Nigerians but also the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA).

The National Chairman of NMA, Dr Ojinmah, while lauding the vice president stated, “Osinbajo would have ran outside the shores of the country and still met Nigerian doctors there to get the surgery done, but he chose to do it here in Nigeria. This rare courage which indicates that he has confidence in Nigerian doctors”.

With the increasing population of Nigerians moving out from the country to seek medical treatment abroad and the huge negative impact on the nation’s economy, it has become a matter of urgency to revamp the health sector to stem the ugly trend.

Tens of thousands of Nigerians travel every year to the United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK), India, Thailand, Turkey, France, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and China, among other countries, for treatments.

These Nigerians travel abroad for kidney transplant, open heart or cardiac surgeries, neurosurgeries, cosmetic surgeries, orthopedic surgeries, eye surgery and other health conditions, to the extent of delivering babies over there.

It is estimated that Nigeria loses $1.3 billion to medical tourism yearly, which has caused a huge burden on the nation’s economy. The inadequacy of Nigeria’s health system has been traced to the thriving foreign medical tourism due to poor service delivery, poor funding, poor infrastructure and absence of specialised services.

Besides, what about the exodus of medical doctors to foreign countries? It is estimated that, at least 2,000 medical doctors leave Nigeria yearly and no fewer than 5,407 Nigerian trained doctors are currently working with the British National Health Service in the United Kingdom.

It is also estimated that, 33,000 out of 75,000 registered doctors have left the shores of the country for greener pastures overseas.

Therefore, Osibanjo’s medical patriotism should mark a paradigm shift for excessive taste for medical tourism in the country by government officials. There is the need for government to come up with laws banning public officers from medical trips abroad, unless on the advice of specialists.

Government at all levels should increase budgetary allocations of the health sector, build and equip our hospitals with modern facilities. By doing so, the taste for medical tourism will stop.

Although, he is has the privilege to travel to any country for medical attention, the vice president instead displayed an exemplary lifestyle worthy of emulation by all patriotic Nigerians. Nigerians pray for his quick recovery.

Ibrahim Mustapha,
Pambegua, Kaduna state

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