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Nigerians flock to India for medical treatments, exposing healthcare gaps at home

In recent years, Indian hospitals have become a beacon of hope for many Nigerians seeking advanced medical treatments.

With superior facilities, highly skilled doctors, and cost-effective care, India has emerged as a preferred destination for medical tourism.

Nairametrics recently published an exclusive report on the top 10 Indian hospitals visited by Nigerians and the associated treatment costs, highlighting the substantial financial commitment involved in seeking medical care abroad.

According to the report, medical tourism to India is worth an estimated $7.69 billion, highlighting the significant reliance on foreign healthcare by Nigerians.

However, the journey is not without its challenges, particularly in terms of language barriers and logistical complexities.

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This feature article sheds light on the experiences of Nigerian patients in Indian hospitals and explores the broader implications for Nigeria’s healthcare system.

Patient Experiences

According to interviews conducted by Nairametrics, the experiences of Nigerians receiving treatment in Indian hospitals have been generally positive, though not without challenges.

Advanced treatments and expertise: Faith, a Nigerian who studied and interned at Artemis Hospital, shared that a significant number of Nigerians visit Indian hospitals for complex medical procedures such as organ transplants, bone marrow transplants for sickle cell disease, and treatments for heart diseases.

  • She emphasised the expertise of Indian doctors, particularly in cardiovascular treatments, noting, “Most of the Nigerians were there for organ transplants, bone marrow transplant for sickle cell disease, heart diseases because Indians are excellent at cardiovascular treatments.

“Some even give birth to their children here even though India doesn’t give citizenship.”

High-Quality facilities and diagnostic capabilities: Another Nigerian patient highlighted the impressive facilities and advanced diagnostic capabilities of Indian hospitals, which they found to be superior to those available in Nigeria.

“The facilities here are impressive. Their diagnostic capabilities are beyond that of Nigeria because the facilities are available to them.”

“The experience for me was okay. They try to make you feel comfortable. Although everyone’s experience is not the same.”

“Language was one of the major challenges I had, even though most of the doctors speak English, the accent can cause miscommunication then it gets worse with the other staff who are not good in English.”

Language barriers: Despite the high-quality medical care, some patients have faced language barriers.

  • While most doctors speak English, accents can lead to miscommunication.
  • This issue is more pronounced with other hospital staff who may not be as proficient in English, potentially complicating the patient experience.

Logistical support: Mr. Uche, a Nigerian agent working for Fortis Hospital in Gurgaon, provided insights into the logistical support available for Nigerian patients.

  • He explained that agents in Nigeria collaborate with him to arrange visas, logistics, and accommodation for patients traveling to India for treatment.

“We over here work with agents in Nigeria too. Once there’s a client, we work with them on getting their visas at the Embassy.”

“Then I arrange their logistics and accommodation. They pay me. Once they arrive, I take them to the hospital and from there, they begin treatment.”

The effects of medical tourism on the Nigerian healthcare system

Medical tourism significantly impacts Nigeria’s healthcare system, particularly through the brain drain of medical professionals.

The migration of skilled doctors and nurses to countries with better facilities and higher salaries has created a talent gap, making Nigeria one of the highest exporters of medical professionals.

This exodus, driven by better career opportunities, higher wages, and improved working conditions abroad, exacerbates the challenges within Nigeria’s healthcare system.

It results in a shortage of experienced professionals, increased workloads, longer wait times for patients, limited access to specialised care, and overall lower health outcomes.

Strategies to mitigate brain drain

To reduce the need for medical tourism and address the brain drain, Nigeria can modernise hospitals with advanced equipment, increase hospital capacity in both urban and rural areas, and expand medical education programs.

Competitive salaries and benefits are crucial for retaining medical professionals, while improving the work environment can enhance job satisfaction.

Strong government support and increased healthcare funding are essential, as are public-private partnerships to bolster healthcare delivery and infrastructure development.

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