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Monday, July 22, 2024

Plight of Nigerian cancer patients on Indian medical tourism

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From Gbade Akanbi, India.
In recent times, a good number of Nigerians and other Africans have been flocking to India for medical attention, because of inadequate medical facilities, and inefficient and ineffective medical personnelat home.
Since family members of the sick person would love to have a safe and good medical attention for their loved ones, the option of traveling abroad becomes a necessity.
Thousands of Nigerians and other Africans travel to India every year for medical attention and this is known to cost the patients and the country millions of dollars. While some have been fortunate to have their ailments treated and are living good lives after their medical trips to India, there are many others with unpleasant experiences.
Before a patient can secure access to a good hospital in India, there has to be an Indian agent and a Nigerian agent on many occasions. Some of these agents are medical doctors especially on the Nigerian side. A careful evaluation of this whole issue leaves one with a big question: Is it really worth all the struggles? Can’t the Nigerian government and the private sector collaborate to stem this tide of capital flight?
According to Dr. Kathi (not real name)  of of a prominent hospital in Delhi,  “there is nothing the Indian doctors are doing which the Nigerian doctors are incapable of doing if there is proper networking.”
In fact, he wonders why some cases are brought to India in the first instance.
Some of the agonies experienced by the patients from Africa include:
*Lack of adequate financial preparation due to hasty diagnosis by doctors in the home country of the patients. This puts a lot of pressure on the patient and the caregivers because they soon run out of money. The patients are usually told that the treatment will take only two to three weeks only for many of these patients to be kept in the hospital for months. Usually, the hospital in India will use the first two to three weeks to conduct their own tests before commencing any treatment. This implies more expenditure.
*Lack of adequate preparation for the caregivers both in terms of what to expect in India and the duration of time to stay in India. Some apply for one month leave from their work place only to discover they have to stay for months. This has caused a lot of financial strain on many.
*Of course, the difference in culture and food is another agony. Most of the hospitals serve only vegetarian diet which many Africans are not used to. So, while struggling on one hand with the issue of bills and ailments, the patients and caregivers have to pay bills for food they cannot even eat.
*The worst thing is having to go back home without any tangible medical breakthrough. Mrs Bolatito (not real name) came for cancer treatment in India but with a comorbid case of TB. It was so disturbing that the doctor in Nigeria and the ones attending to her in India could not decide when she should stop the TB medication which she started in Nigeria before coming to India.
This is despite the fact that there is a time lag for using TB medication according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Tragically, she left India only to pass away barely three months after arriving Nigeria.
Mrs C came from Zimbabwe to correct a faulty surgery done in her home country which she and her daughter assumed would be done in two to three weeks. Now they’ve stayed for two months and the woman is in coma yet the bills are increasing.
One can only pray to the Great Healer, Jesus Christ, that the patient doesn’t die in India because that would further complicate the matter.
The Minister of Health in Nigeria, who himself is a world renowned cancer specialist, can arrange a collaborative workshop between Nigerian hospitals with the leading hospitals in India through the facilitation of the two governments to bring together a working relationships that can achieve the following:
*Establishment of specialized hospitals in Nigeria by some of the leading hospitals in India.
*Training of Nigerian doctors in the area of cancer diagnosis and treatment by Indian doctors and working together for a specific number of years for proper professional mentoring.
If this is one major achievement of the current minister of health, it would not only lead to a drastic reduction of the capital flight from Nigeria and other African countries but many Nigerians and Africans would be spared the agonizing experience of medical tourism in India.

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