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When medical tourism becomes an albatross, By Jerome-Mario Utomi

By News Express on 24/05/2018

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•Jerome-Mario Utomi
•Jerome-Mario Utomi

I recently witnessed a fight between two young adults within the church premises. And as expected of me, I immediately intervened. And in my effort to calm their frail nerves, I observed that one was visibly calm and viewed the whole episode as a friendly battle occasioned by a communication gap. The other was, however, furious and unmanageable: a behaviour I mirrored as uncharacteristic of his age.

I inquired what led to the fight. “The angry boy” plainly responded thus: he called me an idiot. Surprised at the trivial reason for his anger, I mooted, is that all? Just immediately, he repeated the insult. Obviously, it was not the idiot that got me irked, but the positioning of his mouth.

Likewise, each time I ponder on the state of affairs surrounding our nation’s health sector, which currently depicts a symbolic imagery of a sector in desolation, the memories of my conversation with the “angry boy’’ naturally comes flooding, as it perfectly situates the feelings of Nigerians towards their past and present leaders’ inability to build and maintain a functional health sector, and their time-honored penchant for medical tourism.

Without wasting words, it’s certain that as humans/mortals, we are bound to fall sick, leaders and the led alike. What, in my view, is worrying - looking at commentaries - is the degree of distinctiveness and separateness of the solution destinations between the government officials and private citizens.

Comparatively, while the leaders have barefacedly demonstrated inability to revive/manage the health sector infrastructure despite having it as a campaign promise, and now opt for medical tourism, the masses in their affliction and grinding poverty are made to seek solution from a sector that is visibly sick, ill-equipped, and governed by ignorance and backwardness occasioned by neglect; a state of affairs that has sent many innocent Nigerians down the valley of the shadow of death.

Though not limited to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, but the recent trip by the President, to keep appointment with his doctor in the United Kingdom while his nation’s health sector is in disarray; with the Joint Health Sectors Union (JOHESU) on an indefinite nationwide industrial action in reaction to the failure of the government to meet its demands, remains a vivid example of a leadership that listens without being attentive; and has, in turn, become an albatross.

The trip, without a doubt, has appreciably supported the belief by the vast majority of Nigerians that this administration, though eloquent in analysing the nation’s hydra-headed challenge, is grossly inept in providing the necessary solution from the analyses. Standing as a tall example to buttress this assertion is a recent statement credited to JOHESU, which reads in part:

“Since the government has not shown commitment to toe the path of honour and meet our demands, especially the core demand for the upward adjustment of CONHESS salary structure, as agreed in the memorandum of terms of settlement signed on the 30th September 2017, with JOHESU, we are left with no other option than to direct states and local governments to commence and join the strike action nationwide.”

Going by the above statement, it will again necessitate the poser as to what prevented the Federal Government from fulfilling an agreement reached with JOHESU since 2017.

However, even if an answer is provided to this screaming question, it will but only in the interim provide the expected succour as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has, over a separate demand, notified the Federal Government via a release, of their intention to resume industrial action, if the government fails to abide by the global practice in terms of the clinical or medical team in which the physician is the head.

Given the above complicated situation, Nigerians are, however, of the opinion that what JOHESU and NMA are stoically going through is but an emblematic pointer to the bigger frame of challenge; a feeling that have created an underlying suspicion between the masses and the government; with the masses now x-raying the nation as a political pace governed by one constitution with different sets of rules and standards.

Consequentially, Nigerians - like the “angry boy” - are crying that the capital flight lost to medical tourism in one year by Nigerians is huge enough to build a world-class hospital in this country that can attend to these needs, create employment, bring back the array of Nigerian medical specialists littered the world over, and bring foreign earnings to our nation’s coffers.

Nigerians are not particularly happy that the same medical tourism which, in 2017 alone, kept our dear President away for about 150 days is left without anything dramatic done to redress or forestall a future occurrence. Sadly, Nigerians will continue to “cry”, because they are tired of going through this state-sponsored poverty and human degradation visited on them by past and present leaders, until such is reversed. This unfortunate occurrence, in my view, is given a boost by the concentration of the government/wealth of the nation in the hands of a small group who dispenses it disproportionately that creates limited gains for the masses and weaker incentives for the institutions.

This explains why many are of the opinion that “the poverty of African leaders certainly does not mean material poverty, but lack of commitment to duty, lack of vision, and greediness characterised by corruption.”

Conversely, a point our leaders often overlook is that this mal-performance will, on the long-run, corrode their reputation with nothing consummate or inspiring for the future generation to learn. This leaves their leadership era painted as a period when the nation went into desolation.

It will, however, be of a considerable significance to this discussion if the Federal Government realises that globally, there is no codified principle for lifting a nation from poverty to prosperity, but can only be achieved by the government’s disciplined attention to some sectors such as education, health, and energy, among others.

To disabuse the minds of angry Nigerians, therefore, it will be pertinent that the Federal Government respond to the needs of these workers. It has also become imperative that the Federal Government goes extra miles to accelerate economic development, social progress and gets deeply committed to developing strategies that will guarantee the protection of life and property of Nigerians. That, in my view, maybe the little beginning that will bring a great end.

•Jerome-Mario Utomi, of, writes via and can also be reached on 08032725574 (SMS)

Source News Express

Posted 24/05/2018 7:18:50 PM


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