Fred Itua, Abuja
As the country battles the nationwide outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19), Martin Okonkwo, Chief Executive Officer of Martreach Global Healthcare Service, has raised the alarm that Federal and State hospitals maybe unable to tackle the pandemic.
Okonkwo, who has been linking Nigerian patients with hospitals in Germany and the United Kingdom since 1997, said many Nigerian hospitals are making frantic efforts to acquire oxygen concentrators and ventilators, but lamented that the equipments are currently unavailable.
He said even developed countries in Europe are also battling to acquire the same medical equipments.
He said: “Nigerian Hospitals are making effort to acquire oxygen concentrators and ventilators. They’re are currently unavailable even in developed countries such as Germany.
“The global demand for ventilators is already enormous and it will keep growing as the virus continues to spread. We have had an increase in the number of requests coming from Nigeria.
“Ventilators are key to prevent coronavirus deaths, but does Nigeria have 10% of ventilators and oxygens to take care of the out break? The answer is no.
“The ventilator shortage maybe particularly dire in hospitals in rural areas. The machines are expensive, costing around $30,000 for a basic model and many small hospitals in remote areas do not have even an oxygen plant or power supply to run oxygen concentrators.
“For some critically-ill COVID-19 patients, mechanical ventilators can be the difference between recovery and death. Ventilators assist or replace respiratory functions, pumping oxygen into the blood for vital organs. That challenge could be especially difficult in rural hospitals.
“Under normal circumstances, most privately and state own hospitals transfer their most severe patients to bigger urban hospitals with more resources.
“Many rural hospitals don’t have the staff and expertise and organisational setup to care for patients on ventilators for extended periods of time and then wean them off successfully.”
Speaking on the number of Nigerians who embark on medical tourism every month in Europe, he said years of neglect of the country’s health sector was responsible for that.
He said more than 5,000 Nigerians travel abroad every month for medical tourism and spend about $800 million annually on foreign treatments.
“More than 5,000 Nigerians travel abroad every month on medical tourism before the outbreak of the Coronavirus in January 2020 and that cost the country over $800 million annually.
“Long years of decay in health sector and government’s failure to improve on health facilities and services are some of the reasons encouraging medical tourism abroad,” he said.
He said these factors have practically made it impossible for Nigerians to stop travelling abroad for treatment.
He said countries who depend on medical tourism will be worst hit after the virus is successfully contained.
“The restrictions and fears have hit tourism hard, and medical tourism is expected to be hit the hardest. While many hospitals and clinics will have more income and more customers locally, those heavily dependent on medical tourism may struggle to survive after this period. The truth is that, many hospitals will simply not have the capacity for medical tourists anymore after this whole thing.”