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Report: N8.3bn Spent on Medical Tourism in One Year

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According to findings by NewsNow, Nigerians have spent approximately $7.43m (equivalent to N8.3bn) on foreign healthcare services between June 2022 and June 2023.

The figures were obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Balance of Payments database.

Observations show that the amount spent on foreign healthcare services in the second half of last year (June-December 2022) exceeded the spending in the first half of this year (January to June 2023).

In the second half of last year, $4.3m was spent, while $3.13m was spent in the first half of this year.

Breaking down the report, it was revealed that in 2022, medical tourism accounted for $0.42m in June, $0.46m in July, $0.80m in August, $0.44m in September, $0.62m in October, and $0.78m each for November and December.

For this year, $0.34m was spent in January, $0.32m in February, $0.38m in March, $0.50m in April, $1.28m in May, and $0.31m in June.

Many Nigerian leaders and politicians frequently travel abroad for medical treatment due to the country’s health crises, poor primary healthcare system, inadequate facilities, brain drain, and disease outbreaks, among other reasons.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari sought medical treatment abroad on multiple occasions.

Buhari, as well as his wife Aisha and son Yusuf, spent over 250 days abroad for medical treatment.

President Bola Tinubu and other political leaders also opt for foreign hospitals.

Commenting on the report, the President of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, Prof. Aminu Muhammad, emphasized that now is the opportune time to reverse the trend of medical tourism in the country.

“The government and medical practitioners can work together to reverse this trend. The rising exchange rate will restrict the affordability of travel for most people, making now the best opportunity to change course. Everyone wants the forex to stabilize, and this is the right time to act.

“Around the world, the government alone cannot address this issue. The government needs to actively encourage the private sector by creating an enabling environment. For instance, the government can support private health practitioners who possess the necessary skills, equipment, and a similar healthcare environment.

“An arrangement should be made where the government can act as a guarantor to facilitate the supply of high-quality medical equipment to individuals with the required skills to operate those machines. Additionally, low-interest loans should be made available to those looking to advance their medical practice, allowing people to access well-equipped services,” he suggested.

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