…Says Nigeria Spends N665Billion On Health Tourism Abroad
…As Over 900 MLS Leave Nigeria For Greener Pastures
By Saviour Ekpe
The Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS) have identified poor budgetary provision to the medical sector as the bane of medical decay in Nigeria.
The assertion of the MLS was contained in a communiqué made under the aegis of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN) during its 206 National Executive Council meeting held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
Presenting the communiqué by the National President, which was jointly signed by the trio of Prof. James Garba Damen, National President; Prof Musa Muhibi, National Secretary and Mr. Olusoji Billyrose, National Publicity Secretary of the organization, the group appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort in the health care delivery, “We want to first and foremost thank Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria on his intention to…bequeath a better health sector than he met it and we are ready to offer useful suggestions, feedbacks and agitations towards this end”.
They observed that the Federal Government of Nigeria has failed in the implementation of the African Union Declaration on health by allocating five per cent of its Annual budget to the health sector against the 15 per cent hence, the deficit in infrastructure, training and technological assimilation, “NEC observed with dismay the continuous underfunding of the health sector in Nigeria as reflected in paltry budgetary allocation spanning about two decades now. Nigeria’s health budget has continued to fall short of the recommendations of the Abuja Declaration by the African Union. It would be recalled that African heads of state met in Abuja in 2001 to review the health system in the region and were blown apart by the deficit in infrastructure, training and technological assimilation in the system. To address this, they declared that member nations were to forthwith commit not less than 15% of their annual budgets to the health sector. Unfortunately, Nigeria has continued to falter with health budgets oscillating between 5-8% of the total budget. NEC therefore charges the exiting and incoming governments to change the status quo”.
Touching Medical Tourism, the Association noted with utmost dismay the whooping 664 Billion Naira spent by Nigerians on medical tourism annually and called on the Central Bank of Nigeria and other financial institutions to extend financial support for the development of health sector in Nigeria, “It has been estimated that Nigeria spends about N664bn yearly on medical tourism, this is indeed a huge loss of foreign exchange and a drain on the country’s foreign reserves. These amounts, when invested in the Nigeria health sector will not only make it competitive with world-class hospitals but make Nigeria a health tourism destination since most of the so-called world-class hospitals in developed countries are manned by Nigerian health professionals Consequently, we call on the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bank of Industry, to provide financial support through special intervention funds for private sector investment for healthcare delivery and especially the building of mega and high tech medical laboratories that can be globally competitive both in technology and test spectrum”.
Worried over the alarming number of MLS that leave the shore of Nigeria for greener pastures, the association identifies poor leadership of the health sector, corruption, poor remuneration among others as reasons for the migration, “NEC observed with sadness the continuous human capital flight that has escalated to an alarming proportion. In 2022 alone the nation lost about 906 medical laboratory scientists to human capital flight. The reasons for brain drain may include poor leadership in the health sector, corruption, poor remuneration and toxic work environment. We, therefore, call on the government to address these concerns as a futuristic remedy for the malady”.