Stemmming  foreign medical tourism, By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta

Chinese doctors treat a child in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, at a local hospital, June 25, 2019. (Photo by Huo Wen/People’s Daily)

The habit of  travelling to other countries by some Nigerians in search of  medical services at exorbitant cost has regularly  generated heated debate in the media and medical seminars.

But most Nigerian medical tourists are genuinely unaware of  the top-end medical services obtainable at home. Yet others go abroad  for medical treatment as a status symbol,  or just to frivolously spend  part of the country’s foreign currency reserves.

However, due to the availabilty  of adavanced medical equipment, the expansion in the pool of highly skilled doctors and allied personnel in all medical fields in the country, specialty clinics have sprung-up in Teaching Hospitals,  Federal Medical Centres and some private hospitals. The Specialty Clinics  offer most of  the type of medical services  obtainable abroad mainly  four specialties of oncology, orthopedics, nephrology and cardiology.  Thus,  it is   unnecessary for Nigerians  to travel abroad to treat  such health conditions.

For instance, kidney transplant  was not widely available in Nigeria.  But nowadays there are several teaching hospitals, federal medical centres and   private clinics that conduct successful kidney transplant in the country.  The Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH)  pioneered kidney transplanting among government hospitals in the country in 2002. From 2002 when the first kidney transplant was conducted there, the Hospital has so far  done  over 60 successful kidney transplants. 

The Chief Medical Director, Professor Abdulrahman Abba Sheshe said at a symposium that, “AKTH has the highest number of kidney patients in the country. It is time to move a step forward to develop and start liver transplant.”

Professor Sheshe said during the  symposium on liver desease and treatment that,  the high manifestation of liver diseases in the country was a source of concern, which needed a comprehensive approach to stem the disease.

Public awareness of kidney transplant at the AKTH has spread in Nigeria and beyond, along with  awareness of other complex surgeries that were previously unavailable in Nigeria, but which are now regularly done  at the Hospital.  One of such delicate exercise  is brain surgery, the first two of which were conducted in the Hospital in 2019. 

“The Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) has conducted a second successful Transphenodal Endoscopy re-section also known as Pituitary Tumor Surgery.  It was performed to remove a brain tumour from a 47-year-old patient, a native of Edo state,”  Kano  Focus,  an Online outlet, reported.

The patient was  referred  to the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital for the surgery by the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).  It was  conducted   by a  team of indigenous  specialists comprising anesthetists, nurses and ENT/Neuro-surgeons.  A tumour was removed from the base of the patient’s brain. 

 Dr. Musbahu Ahmed, the leader of the team said, “the surgery was done using an endoscope with specialized cameras that are similar to a telescope and a light source that took them directly with some piece of instrument to remove the tumour through the nose.”

A Consultant Cardiologist said  the  Hospital  has conducted  successful cardiac pacemaker implantation surgeries on patients to “increase the heart rate to at least 60 beats per minute as against the less than 40 beats per minute.”

Similarly, specialists in the  Department of Otorhinolaryngology have successfully restored hearing to patients through  cochlear implant surgery, another proceedure for which Nigerians previously  had to travel abroad.   

The Head of  Communication in the Hospital, Mrs Hauwa Abdullahi said  the  first cochlear implant surgery was performed  in 2021 by ENT specialists to restore hearing in a  severely hearing-impaired,  three-year old boy from Yobe state,  and an eight year-old girl from Borno state. 

Now that Nigerians can be properly evaluated and  fully treated of their hearing impairment, their brain tumour removed, liver desease cleared  or have  kidney transplant at home, travelling abroad for such and other medical services,  which costs Nigeria  around N576 billion or $1.2 billion  annually, is no longer necessary.

Salisu Nainna wrote from Dambatta, Kano state.

Related content you may like