The health care system of any nation constitutes a primary spine for its economic growth and human capital development. Having a good health sector depends on the availability of competent health practitioners, adequate funding and updated health-related research and a good government that works to meet the people’s needs.
Be that as it may, the increase in medical tourism among Nigerians, particularly the public officers and its impact on the Nigerian economy has brought about a considerable need to revamp Nigerian health to curtail the repulsive trend.
The Nigerian health care system is, no doubt, very poor and underfunded. The sector has not been a major recipient of concrete budgetary allocation among other distinct sectors in the country. It has only languished an allocation far below the recommendation of the WHO, which is about 11% of the country’s GDP and also 15% of the country’s annual budget as recommended by the African Union (AU).
Data from Nigeria’s Apex Bank revealed that the percentage of public health expenditure to total government expenditure stood at 7.05%; 4.22%; 6.41%; 4.3%, and 4.4% in the mid-1990s, 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010. Also, from 2011 to 2015, less than the nation’s total budget was allocated for the health care system.
Fast forward to the 2021 budget, N547 billion was proposed for the healthcare sector, about seven per cent of the budget’s total of N13.08 trillion, which is still below the WHO and AU recommendations. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria is currently ranked 187 out of 190 countries in the health index.
Even though the Nigeria health system comprises both public and private sectors, the recent surge in the exodus of Nigerians for treatment abroad as well as health professionals migrating to regions that are considered more favourable is disheartening.
A study by Philips Consulting in 2017 revealed that the current doctor-to-patient ratio in Nigeria is 1: 2,000 while the nurse-to-patient ratio is 1: 20,000. Besides, the former President of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, Clare Omatseye, claimed that Nigeria has up 37,000 doctors in the diaspora, with about 30,000 doctors in the US and 5,000 in the UK and Northern Ireland.
The major factors contributing to this include inadequate medical facilities, corruption, poor remuneration, poor financing, poor human resources management and lack of trust or confidence in the nation’s health care system. Another critical factor is the lack of proper funding of the Educational sector; many universities do not have enough facilities and other required facilities for teaching medicine. With these ugly developments, Nigeria loses over $1bn yearly to medical tourism, which according to PWC, translates into a massive loss of potential 3.7 million treatments of patient per year in Nigeria.
To reduce the surge in medical tourism among Nigerians, the government needs to overhaul primary health care across local government areas. An intense and effective primary health care would reduce the burden on the secondary and tertiary health services and thereby leading to efficiency and effectiveness.
Education and health sector allocations should also be increased to meet the required standards. This will help to revamp the health care system and as well train more professionals to meet up the global standards of the number of patients per doctor.