By Abiemwense Moru
A Bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act to regulate and prohibit medical trip abroad by public servants has passed through second reading at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Sponsor of the bill, Sergius Ogun (Edo-PDP), while leading the debate, said the amendment seeks to curb the huge foreign exchange loss to medical tourism.
This is by facilitating the development of effective healthcare facilities as well as strengthening existing public and private health institutions for efficient service delivery.
Ogun stated that over 5,000 Nigerians fly out on a monthly basis, seeking medical treatment in India and other countries.
According to the lawmaker, Nigeria losses over 500 million dollars annually, with India alone getting about 260 million dollars of the cash flight.
Ogun said it was against this background that the proposed amendments seek to create a conducive operating health environment that would attract the best Nigerian medical brains in the Diaspora.
He expressed confidence that if the amendment is passed into law, it would regulate medical tourism by public officers and also bring an end to huge cash flight, which was inimical to economic growth and development.
Ogun said that only serious health cases, which cannot be attended to in Nigeria, would be granted approval by the Minister of Health.
Contributing to the motion, Johnson Agbonayinma (Edo-APC), called for swift passage of the bill, saying it will encourage public servants to fix the healthcare sector by providing world class equipments and facilities through proper funding of the sector.
On her part, Nnena Elendu Ukeje (Abia-PDP) faulted the amendment, saying it infringes on the rights of public servants, arguing that there is nowhere in the world this was done.
Subsequently, the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, referred the bill to the Committee on Healthcare Services.