The Nigerian Medical Association says it is pursuing legislation to stop public office holders going abroad for medical treatment on “frivolous grounds”.
The move is among 19 far-reaching resolutions at the end of the National Health Summit in Abuja, and is consider one hope of curbing medical tourism and refocusing government attention on the country’s health system, primary health care and the Nigerian patient.
The National Health Act already stipulates the public office holders cannot go abroad for treatment until a medical board gives approval that the treatment sought is unavailable in Nigeria.
But the said government must “genuinely commit to the stop-medical-tourism agenda of the Buhari administration by implementing policies to prevent public office holders from seeking care abroad on frivolous grounds,” said NMA president, Francis Faduyile, citing one of the resolutions.
In another resolution, he said “enabling environment and right policies leading to the reversal of medical tourism” would save huge resources.
The summit has also urged health care professionals to jettison “traditional care patent” and imbibe “patient-centred care”, allowing patients and their relations to be part of treatment process.
Faduyile said, with a changed orientation toward patient-centred-care, health professionals would stop seeing themselves as being important, but work together as a team to care for patients.
“As it is, patients are passive in the treatment they get. We want to talk more to patients and their relations to be much more involved,” said Faduyile.
“And if we are changing our way of interaction, it has to start at the level of training of medical students.”
The summit has implored medical education regulators to “broaden the scope of medical education and training to meet the current professional and medical realities” in hopes of filling gaps in medical education curriculum.
Existing medical curriculum teaches doctors to look at “illnesses and complaints,” said Faduyile, “We don’t look at the patient in totality.”
The new curriculum under review encourages health workers to consider aspects beyond the physical illness presented in order to understand the patient better.
It puts medical students through modules to become better communicators, promoters and advocates of health, and exposes them to patients right from first year of medical school, according to consultant neurosurgeon, Dr Douglas Okor.
“That part of medicine now needs to be incorporated at the undergraduate level; so as you are learning, it becomes part of you,” explained Dr Roland Aigbovo.
Only University of Ibadan currently uses the revised curriculum, but University of Benin has set up a faculty of family medicine to implement it. It is expected the curriculum would roll out across other medical schools nationwide.