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Friday, 15 March 2013

NIGERIAN LEADERS AND FOREIGN HOSPITALS


                                                                      
Nigeria is 52 years old but it is amazing that after 52 years of independence, Nigerian leaders have not been able to build standard and functional hospitals that can take care of their health related issues. So, when they want to do check-ups and take medical treatments they simply take their international passports and travel abroad for such purposes. This has been the practice since the First Republic and still persists till today.

However, this trend makes one wonder whether Nigerian leaders have foresight and plan ahead at all. How can a 52 year old country be without functional hospitals that her leaders can attend? How much does it cost to build a functional hospital that Nigeria cannot build in her 52 years of independence? Are the huge sums of money our leaders are spending on transportation and foreign hospital bills not enough to build standard and workable hospitals? This situation is worrisome because Nigeria calls herself the giant of Africa but to be a giant is not by mere talks. It is not by having a large population either but by action and achievements. A giant is not a weakly and dependant. One major attribute of a giant is the ability to stand on his feet; not expecting others to help him stand. Is Nigeria really the giant of Africa? A country where the leaders run to foreign hospitals for medication cannot be said to be a giant. What qualifies Nigeria to be the giant of Africa?
It is an act of insensitivity for the president, governors, minister of health, other senior government officials and their nuclear families to attend foreign hospitals since they claim that the hospitals are working! If the hospitals are working, why are they travelling abroad for medications?

                                                                             
Recently, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Health, Ifeanyi Okowa, at a public hearing on the National Health Bill, stated that the country loses huge resources to medical tourism, noting that over N80 billion was lost annually as Nigerians seek medical attention overseas. He said, “It is estimated that over N80 billion is lost annually to medical tourism, but more worrying is the state of infrastructure, equipment and staffing of our primary health care centers across the nation, as this level of health care caters for over 80 percent of our health burden as a country. This legal framework for the health sector (National Health Bill) is set to provide the platform that the life of every Nigeria counts and is cared for, through guaranteed health financing for primary health care”. The amount of money mentioned above is a far cry from the reality because Nigerians spend more than that sum of money on foreign hospital bills annually. This is because if the cost of air fare, feeding and accommodation are added to the hospital bills, the amount of money Nigerians spend on foreign hospital bills will triple N80 billion annually! This because everyday, one is inundated by the cries of poor Nigerians soliciting for financial assistance on television, radio, newspapers and magazines in order to send their relatives to foreign hospitals for treatment. In most cases their destination is India where they usually go for kidney transplant, heart surgery and treatment for various types of cancer. This has become medical tourism through which billions of money is wasted while jobs are being created for the citizens of India and other countries where Nigerians go for medical treatment.

                                                                                
As our leaders are attending foreign hospitals, what do they want the ordinary people who cannot afford to travel abroad and pay foreign hospital bills to do? Do the poor not have the right to good health facilities like our leaders? The foreign hospitals our leaders patronize were not built by angels rather, they were built by leaders who have blood and water running in their veins like our leaders! As Nigerian leaders abandon their hospitals, if the leaders of those countries where they receive medication abandon their hospitals where will Nigerian leaders go for medications? I think the only difference between our leaders and the leaders of those countries where they receive medication is corruption. While the leaders of those countries are using their funds to build functional hospitals our leaders are busy stashing away our funds in foreign vaults!
 It must be made clear that there are no special hospitals for the rich or the poor since there are no special diseases for the rich or the poor. A disease is a disease and diseases do not know whether some are rich or some are poor. If a rich man has a cancer of the heart and a poor  man also has a cancer of the heart, it is the same drugs that will be administered to both of them. Drugs do not differentiate between the poor and the rich so also are hospitals. In a nutshell, if our hospitals are well equipped, stocked with drugs and manned by qualified personnel, there will be no need for our leaders to travel abroad for treatment.
There are many disadvantages when our leaders travel abroad for medication because during treatment when they are unconscious, they divulge top secrets and vital information to hospital personnel. This is not healthy for our security system because the secrets of a nation need not be divulged to other nations as every nation has secrets to keep. Second, it shows that our leaders have no sense of shame because every successive government in Nigeria claimed to have done extremely well in all sectors including the health sector. If they have done well as they claimed, why are they receiving treatment in foreign hospitals? Another disadvantage of our leaders using foreign hospitals is that it makes the country spend more money than it should have done if our hospitals are functional. This is due to the high cost of airfare, high exchange rate, high cost of accommodation etc.
The fourth disadvantage of our leaders receiving treatment in foreign hospitals is that it damages the image of the country as it portrays our leaders as liars because while they are receiving treatment in foreign hospitals, they tell lies to Nigerians that they are on vacation while the personnel in those foreign hospitals know exactly what is happening to them. When Dame Patience Jonathan was outside the country in August last year, there were speculations that she had surgery but when she returned to the country in October, 2012, she denied having any surgery or tummy tuck at Horst Schmidt Klinic in Wiesbaden, Germany. But on Sunday 17, February, 2013, the First Lady at a thanksgiving service at the Aso Villa Chapel said that she had surgery on her tummy and intestines. She said, “I remember when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the President of the country; I was close to his late wife, Stella. We worshiped together in this chapel. It was a painful moment for me that time when she died and her corpse was brought here. That was how my corpse would have been brought here. It was not an easy experience for me. I actually died; I passed out for more than one week. My intestine and tummy were opened. I am not Lazarus but my experience was similar to his. My doctors said all hope was lost. A black doctor who is with us in this service was flown in from London when the situation became critical. It was God himself in His infinite mercy that said I will return to Nigeria. God woke me up after seven days…..”.
When Governor Sullivan Chime left the country on September 19, 2012 for a foreign hospital, his aides denied that he was ill but when he returned to the country after 140 days outside the country, he confessed to Nigerians that he actually had surgery to remove cancerous tumors from his neck and nose! The question Nigerians are asking is, who is fooling or deceiving who? Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State also spent three months in a foreign hospital till he returned recently. But while he was outside the country, his aides denied that he was receiving treatment abroad.
In other countries, the health conditions of leaders are open to the public because they are public figures. For instance, when Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, who died recently had surgery for cancer in a Cuban hospital in December, 2012, it was not hidden as the whole world heard about it. He was showed on international television and social media while he was reading a newspaper in a hospital bed!      
 The Nigerian masses have the right to quality medical services just like their leaders. Our leaders should build modern and functional hospitals that can take care of their health problems and those of the poor masses. Travelling abroad for medical treatment and allowing the poor masses to die of preventable diseases is wrong and it is a sign of egocentrism.



Dear VME readers, is it good for our leaders to be receiving medication in foreign hospitals when the rest of us have no hospitals to attend? Please, leave your comments in the comment section. Thank you. 



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