Former president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA(, Dr Osahon Enabulele, said Buhari’s 10-day medical trip to London undermined confidence in the local health system and contributed to a culture that has cost the country $1bn.
“This foreign medical trip flies in the face of the government’s declaration to halt medical tourism, which by the end of 2013 has led to capital flight of about $1bn,” Enabulele said in an open letter to Buhari. He said most of these costs were incurred by public officials, whose foreign medical trips were financed by taxpayers.
By opting for treatment abroad, Buhari has squandered an opportunity to promote reforms that he himself has called for, Enabulele said, describing the move as “a tragic blot on Nigeria’s collective professional and national image”.
“I see no reason why, in 2016, Mr President could not have stayed back in Nigeria to attend to his ear infection,” Enabulele wrote.
He claimed that Nigerians who seek care abroad are often treated by locally trained professionals who have emigrated because of the poor state of the health system. The UK has more than 3,000 Nigerian-trained medical doctors and the US more than 5,000.
“Records show that in last year alone, 637 medical doctors emigrated due largely to poor working conditions and health facilities, insecurity, unpredictable and poor funding, uncompetitive wages and job dissatisfaction,” he said.
Enabulele, who had surgery for an ear infection in Nigeria earlier this year, said the president should have used his ailment to kick-start healthcare reforms by providing the necessary equipment to allow local ENT specialists to treat him and other Nigerians with similar conditions.
“As a trained medical specialist, I believe that those ENT specialists and medical experts, and many others in Nigeria, who handled my situation then are skilled enough, and with the right equipment in place can handle any complicated ENT problem in Nigeria,” Enabulele said.