Health minister plans to end medical tourism

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By Folasade Akpan

Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, assured on Monday in Abuja that he would work toward ending medical tourism out of Nigeria.

He gave the assurance at his maiden meeting with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Ms Kachollom Daju and its directors upon assumption of office.

He noted that there was a gap in health outcomes that needed to be improved upon.

“When you fly from Addis Ababa to New Delhi you see a lot of people going for medical tourism and it is not a thing we in the health sector should rest on our oars and regard as normal.

“We should do something about it and improve our health outcomes.

“It is important that we deal with the issues of governance to improve the governance of health.

“The Federal Government, states and local governments and other stakeholders will work together, including those who may be differently abled in the construct of health policy and implementation,’’ he said.

Pate said also that the economic value chain existing in the health sector should be harnessed.

He noted that the role was for the private sector, though the mission was a core public one.

The minister also said that the agenda to harness the economic value chain in the health sector has to be carefully crafted with every stakeholder being a part of the conversation.

“There is an important signal in the choice of those assigned the health portfolio, and we are very excited about that.

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“I think the fact that the president also included Social Welfare in the health portfolio indicates he also considers the people as the basis; the foundational element for what his administration tries to do.

“This is because the welfare of the people is linked to their health; their health and wellbeing are interconnected right from gestation to childhood, to adulthood to elderly, and all across life cycle.

“We need to grow our economy, but we also need to attend to the people and health is an important component of that and I think that is one signal that is important.

“The president is the driver and we will follow and we will work hard to ensure that our driver takes us to the desired destination; the vision that he has of transforming this country,’’ the minister said.

Pate stressed that the main responsibility of the ministry of health was to save lives and to reduce pain.

“The president realises that Nigerians are eager to feel the impact of government so that people feel the difference that his `Renewed Hope’ agenda actually begins to touch the lives of people and we are right where it can be done,’’ he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Tunji Alausa, said he would work with Pate to ensure that Nigerians appreciated the impact of healthcare delivery.

“Our people deserve basic, comprehensive, internationally- acceptable level of healthcare and we will start thinking of healthcare as a human right issue.

“Lack of basic healthcare to any Nigerian from now on will be considered as a violation of the human right of that Nigerian.

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“We are going to latch onto the staff of the ministry to ensure that we deliver,’’ Alausa said.

Earlier, Ms Daju said the statutory function of the ministry was to ensure the development and implementation of national health policies; collaborate with states and local governments and provide specialised healthcare services amongst others.

“Everything that the Ministry of Health does is guided by the National Health Act (2014).

“The Act actually spells out the functions of the ministry; emphasises its role in health policy; resource allocation and healthcare service delivery,’’ she said.

Pate, a professor of Public Health, served as Minister of State for Health from July 2011 to July 2013 in the administration of Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

He was the Chief Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency from 2008 to 2011.

Pate also served as the Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population and Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents at the World Bank Group.

President Bola Tinubu inaugurated Pate and Alausa alongside 43 others, either as ministers or ministers of state, on Monday in Abuja. (NAN)

Edited by Alli Hakeem

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