Public officials travelling abroad for medical care in 2014 cost taxpayers N198.95 billion ($1 billion), the federal ministry of health has said.
The revelation comes as the ministry and stakeholders met in Kaduna to strengthen efforts to implement the National Health Act whose implementation has stalled since it was signed into law last December.
A Director of Planning Research and Statistics at the ministry, Dr Ngozi Azodoh, said implementing the Act will “restore confidence of those seeking health care in Nigeria and will in turn end medical tourism”.
Available estimates show that up to 40 medical trips to India alone were embarked on mostly by public officials at government expense.
“The issue of medical tourism in Nigeria is a great challenge going by what is going on right now. It is not what we want”, said Dr Francis Ukwuije, health economist at the ministry and head, Healthcare Financing and Equity aspect of the Act’s core secretariat.
“Nigerians are often not satisfied with the quality of care they receive at home due to the quality of personnel and available equipment at health facilities and quality of drug they get. This creates higher fidelity on drugs they get out there even when it is more expensive.
“The NHA will help us to improve on the quality of services to ensure there is a standard of practice and certification of such standards as recommended by the Act”, Ukwuije said.