Working in a private hospital in Enugu, with a wide variety of cases needing medical attention, my job has exposed me to the rapidly growing medical tourism to India. Almost every week, from the wards to the clinic, there is always a person seriously wanting to travel to India for medical follow-up or someone who has come back and is continuing follow-up.
In my opinion, some of the cases really need it because unfortunately, there is a limit to what our medical technology and expertise can provide in Nigeria. But there are still cases that just make me wonder why on earth they want to go to India. For instance, a man with a hemorrhagic stroke who has been in the ward for about 5 weeks and from all indications is doing fine. His reason? Physiotherapy. Physiotherapy in India! Well that sounds to me like going all the way to India for a photo shoot. But maybe there is a point in going to India for Physiotherapy; they may have more advanced means that will work wonders. I wish him all the best. He has the money and besides the change of environment and the thought of going abroad for medical care will be a good psychological boost. No be Igbo man again?
Another man was seriously considering sending his 8o something year old father with a chronic illness to India just to be sure he did the best for the man. He had to change his mind when he realised that they were not going to do any new thing for the man. Besides he may not be certified fit to fly.
Now this is just from one hospital. When you put together people from other places all over the country, it may give you an idea of the number of Nigerians making this once in a lifetime trip -or more than once for some- to India, the land flowing with drips and IV fluids. It now seems fewer people are going to the US and UK for reasons of cost and travel details, except for those that have family members there.
An Egyptian Hospital, Dar Al Fouad, just advertised in Thisday Newspaper. At the right bottom corner of the advert is a picture of both the Egyptian and Nigerian flags shaped in forms of the lovers’ heart, almost like it’s a valentine message. Anything to bring us over.
From all these, one thing is certain, many Nigerians are seeking medical treatment abroad. Of course many more would love to but cannot afford it. With this at the back of our minds, our generation may just be the solution that our health sector needs; people with the passion to solve existing problems and not just willing to fall in line or travel abroad ourselves and not come back. Many people are already showing us good examples. Lagos and Abuja already have thriving private Hospitals that are trying to cater for the growing need to travel abroad.
The future is really bright for the health sector in Nigeria. It takes some foresight to realise that we can solve our own problems. We don’t have to invent new things. India, China, Egypt, Brazil and others are all doing that for us. It’s just to know how to adapt them to our needs.
Finally, how I wish more of our health workers who have been abroad for donkey years will come back to contribute. I read that the House of Representative Committee on Diaspora Affairs reported that about 77% of members of the Association of Black Doctors in the United States of America were Nigerians. That's some number!