The Senate has commenced moves to block revenue leakages from medical tourism with the consideration of a bill that would reduce the number of Nigerians travelling to other countries for medical care.
The bill titled: Federal Medical Centres (Establishment) Bill, 2021, was sponsored by Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (APC, Adamawa Central).
Leading the debate on Thursday, Ahmed said the absence of a legal framework for the regulation, development and management of Federal Medical Centers (FMCs) was responsible for hindering the provision of intensive, effective and efficient health care services to Nigerians.
Ahmed cited “under-funding, 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”.
She noted that the passage of the bill will “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 at home.
Ahmed said the 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.
“Seventy-seven 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,” she said.
Senator 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.
On his part, Senator Ibn Na’Allah said the bill was timely as it seeks “to ensure that all institutions of government are governed by law.”
The lawmaker said the government cannot continue to operate a democracy where public funds are disbursed to institutions that are not recognized by law.
The bill after scaling Second Reading was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Health for further legislative work.
The committee, chaired by Senator Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, is expected to report back in four weeks.