Travelling abroad for medical treatment with public funds may not be so easy for public officers any more, if the federal government approves a planned law to that effect.
The Minister of Health Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu disclosed this to journalists in Abuja at a meeting on the state of the nation’s health sector where he stated that the ministry is preparing a memo for the Federal Executive council, which will stop public officers from wasting public funds on foreign medical trips.
Prof Chukwu lamented the rate at which Nigerians travel abroad for health care even when they can get the same treatment at home.
“I am preparing a memo which will soon be presented to the council to stop public officers from foreign medical treatment. If a public officer says no, I don’t want treatment in Nigeria, I want to travel abroad for treatment, no problem, you are free but you will not use public funds for that so long as it can be done in Nigeria”.
He however noted that the only exception, will be a situation where the capacity to handle such a medical problem does not exist in Nigeria. “The only exception will be given, when it has been certified that we do not have the capacity to address the problem here in the country and the official can prove that he/she will be using personal funds.”
According to him, “people travel out of this country to treat kidney stones which we do not even need surgery to treat anymore at the National hospital Abuja.” He further add that all forms of surgeries are now carried out at the National Hospital Abuja, including laser surgery.
The Minister with regret alleged that some level of fraud has also been introduced into the foreign medical trips ripping ill Nigerians of their money.
According to him, some doctors connive with foreign hospitals to rip-off Nigerian patients by referring such patients to those foreign hospitals and agree with such Nigerian doctors to be paid between 10-15 per cent of the medical bills as kickback.
He also noted that many doctors, health professionals and patients are ignorant of medical facilities and expertise available in the country and that some of the cases for which many people travel abroad can be effectively treated in Nigeria.
The Minister, who himself is a medical doctor, boasted that “as Honourable Minister of Health, none of my relatives has been referred abroad.”
Maternal and child mortality
Professor Chukwu also declared that progress has been recorded in reducing the scourge of HIV/AIDS and Malaria, he however noted that maternal and child mortality as well as Tuberculosis remains a challenge.
Also the Minister of state for health, Dr Muhammad Ali Pate has called for the support of the private sector in the provision of quality health services to Nigerians.
He made the plea at a meeting with a Japanese delegation in Abuja, where said that despite efforts by the federal government for the provision of world class medical facilities in the country, a lot still needs to be done to meet the health needs of Nigerians.
Members of the Japanese delegation promised to renew its ties with Nigeria in the area of polio eradication.