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... Calls for inclusion of cancer treatment in NHIS • As FCTA moves to reverse brain drain, medical tourism

Dec, 2021 | By Wisdom Acka | ||

MThe Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has appealed for the inclusion of cancer treatment and other urological ailments into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) coverage. Malam Bello made this call while speaking at the 26th AGM and Scientific Conference of the Nigerian Association of Urological Surgeons (NAUS) in Abuja recently.

According to him, "Urology is an important and highly specialized branch of medicine with an increasing demand for its specialized care especially with an increasing aging population." He, however, regretted that there was gross shortage of urologists in Nigeria, adding that the cost for treatment of cancer-related and urological illnesses was "astronomical" thus leading global cause of death as the poor could not afford it.

He therefore tasked the medical association to train more urologists and work towards cutting down the cost of treating urological ailments, as well as educate the public on early stages of urological ailments and treatment options. "Sadly, there is a shortage of urologists in Nigeria which increases health tourism and also puts a lot of strain and pressure on the specialists and facilities available.

"The need to train specialists in this field is therefore imperative and I was elated to learn that one of the objectives of your organization is the teaching of your members and also promotion of research in your field. "It will also be heartwarming if your association can seek for ways to reduce the cost of treatment which can be astronomical. A lot of lives have been lost to ailments such as enlarged prostrates largely because the cost of treatment was clearly beyond their reach".

The FCT Minister disclosed that the FCT Administration was working with a private financial institution to construct a 500-bed Center of Medical Excellence in Abuja, with an all-inclusive medical city that would provide world class accommodation and attract best medical professionals.

Bello expressed belief that this project would help "stem the tide of brain-drain, medical tourism and save the country the stress of capital flight", as well as "keep the best brains at home".

In his remarks, Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire blamed medical tourism on "perceived lack of trust or care by citizens" and revealed that the Federal Government N100 billion loan to the sector was significantly and positively impacting the health sector. Dr. Ehanire called for more sensitisation and awareness on skills available in the Nigerian health sector, stressing that perceived lack of trust is responsible for the rise in medical tourism recorded in recent times.

According to the Minister, medical tourism is estimated to cost the country foreign exchange out flow of about $1.2billion annually. Dr. Ehanire also called for more engagement of diaspora intervention, particularly in underserved areas of the country in bridging dearth in medical professionals in the country. The Minister of Health, however, assured on Federal Government's support to professional groups like the NAUS to foster health network, while providing improved health care services to Nigerians.

Speaking to newsmen on the sidelines of the event, President of the association, Colonel Evaristus Uzoma Azodo (rtd), disclosed that cancer treatment and management was expensive, hence the need for large pool of funds like the NHIS. "Cancer care is a big challenge in our environment and the greatest problem is that most of the patients turn up late when it is late to give them curative treatment.

"About 80 percent of cancer patients come late and what that means therefore is that they are going to be on long-term treatment with very expensive drugs, even the rich are worn out by such care. "Having a large pool of fund like the NHIS especially if we can expand that system by having more people coming into it, then we will have more money. Cancer care is not cheap and that is why there is the need for government intervention."

While stating some of the advantages of Endo-Urology, Dr. Azodo said with advancement in urology treatment, patients can now undergo surgeries without having to be cut open by passing instruments with light fibres into the natural orphisis of the body and this allows for less trauma to the patients, reduce hospital pain and less hospital stay for the patient. Nigeria is said to have only about 271 Urologists to cater for its over 200million population, leaving a ratio of one Urologist to 800,000 people.


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