The Senate has moved to block revenue leakages from medical tourism following the consideration of a bill seeking the reduction in the number of Nigerians travelling to other countries for medical care.
The bill titled: “Federal Medical Centres (Establishment) Bill, 2021” was sponsored by Aishatu Ahmed (APC, Adamawa Central).
Leading debate on the bill, Ahmed said the absence of a legal framework for the regulation, development and management of Federal Medical Centers to set standards for rendering health services was responsible for hindering the provision of intensive, effective and efficient healthcare services to the people of Nigeria.
The lawmaker argued underfunding, weak facilities and infrastructure, the poor motivation of health workers, low budget, weak accountability, conflicts with the political structure of the states and industrial strikes had weakened effective healthcare delivery services across the country.
She noted that the passage of the bill would reduce the number of Nigerians who have to go to other countries for medical care
The lawmaker lamented that an average of 20,000 Nigerians travel to India each year for medical assistance due to the absence of a solid healthcare system in Nigeria.
Ahmed further noted that the piece of legislation would also sufficiently address remuneration of the employees of the Medical Centers, which in turn would check the exodus of doctors and nurses to other countries.
According to her, “77 percent of black doctors in the US are Nigerians and there is rarely any top medical institution in the US or Europe where you don’t find Nigerians managing at the top level.
“Hardly a year passes without a major national strike by nurses, doctors, or health consultants. The major reasons for these strikes are poor salaries and lack of government investment in the health sector.
“A recent UNICEF report has it that “preventable or treatable diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70 percent of the estimated one million under-five deaths in Nigeria.”
Contributing to the debate, Yahaya Oloriegbe (APC, Kwara Central) said Federal Medical Centres were incapacitated as a result of the absence of legal backing establishing them and insufficient funding.
“We have about twenty-three Federal Medical Centres that were established across the country, but without legal backing.
“The consequence of such is that there are, what I will call policy somersault as regards the operations of these centres.
“You see some of the centres that have enough facilities and manpower to even be termed a Teaching Hospital, but because the legal framework did not state the standard, in terms of infrastructures, manpower and services, they remain like that, and it becomes at the whims and caprices of the policy makers in the Federal Ministry of Health.
“The consequences in terms of funding allocation, Federal Medical Centres receive less fund compared to Teaching Hospitals, the lawmaker said.
After passing a second reading, the bill was referred to the Committee on Health to report back in four weeks time for further legislative action.
Meanwhile, the upper chamber has also thrown its weight against any form of casualization in all forms of employment in the private and public sector in Nigeria.