By Omodele Adigun
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN}, Mr Godwin Emefiele, has disclosed that the apex bank, in collaboration with Access Bank Plc and Bank of Industry (BoI), supported the Chairman of Reddington Hospital Group, Dr Adeyemi Onabowale, with a credit facility of N6.5billion to set up Duchess International Hospital, Lagos, in a bid to reverse medical tourism by Nigerians.
Emefiele, who stated this during the official inauguration of the state-of-the-art healthcare facility by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dapo Abiodun of Lagos and Ogun states respectively and the CBN governor, lamented that a humongous amount of foreign exchange (forex) is being expended annually on medical tourism in the country.
Earlier, the CEO of the new hospital, Dr Adetokunbo Shitta-Bey, said the healthcare industry in Nigeria is worth N6.5 trillion, out of which N600 billion is expended by Nigerians in search of solutions for Diabetes, CardioVascular Disease (CVD), cancer and other minor sicknesses abroad.
According to the CBN governor, part of the reasons often cited by those who travel for medical care abroad is inadequate healthcare services and obsolete medical devices.
He stated: “Medical tourism is a rising demand. As at now, medical tourism constitute huge drain on our foreign reserves. For a country of 210 million people, projected to be about 450 million people in 2050, we can no longer afford to do nothing even amid the repeated warnings of the dangers that lie ahead if we do not begin to depend largely on ourselves for our nutritional, medical and educational needs. The CBN can not afford to sit idly by and concentrate on its core mandate of rate stability. Additional measures are required to identify broad sectors of our economy and channel credit to these sectors while imposing proper monitoring and performance measures.
“The CBN, working with Access Bank and Bank of Industry, supported Dr Yemi Onabowale, with a loan of N6.5 billion to set up this magnificient state-of-the- art facility which will help in providing Nigerians with high quality healthcare services that is comparable to what is being provided anywhere else in the world.”
Vice President Osinbajo in his speech said the only solution to stop doctors migrating is to reward hard work even as he declared that the 100-suits state-of-the-art health facility has the capacity and all it takes to reverse medical tourism in Nigeria.
He said: “The only way to ensure that Nigerian doctors practise medicine in Nigeria is to reward hard work which the Reddington Hospital Group is known for.”
According to him, the opening of the new hospital is a cause for celebration firstly because it shows that “ we have all it takes to become the place of choice for even medical tourists from developed countries looking to jump long queues for specialised procedures at home or simply shopping for more affordable fees for first-class healthcare.”
“Secondly, we have by far the largest number of middle- to low-income communities and individuals in sub–Saharan Africa who require affordable, high-quality healthcare.”
He added that Nigeria is not just a country that has world-class talent, world-class ideas and world-class execution of ideas, with more investments in its health sector, it will also make the country a destination of choice for medical tourists even from developed countries.
The Vice President noted that the establishment of such facilities would not only further provide more Nigerians with excellent healthcare solutions, but it would also open more opportunities to the country’s high-quality medical personnel.
“With investments like this seeking high-quality medical personnel, we can even reverse the trend of doctors voting with their feet. The reasons for voting with their feet are obvious: better remuneration, better facilities.”