In the last four years, Agege, Lagos suburb-based P &G Hospital has brought free medical services to the people. This year, medical experts from JAYPEE Hospital in India spent one week offering comfort to the sick. Seun Akioye reports
For about a week, the consulting rooms at P&G hospital wore a busy look. Patients with varying ailments ranging from the common to the severe trooped into the hospital seeking expert opinion on their ailments. In one of the rooms, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, an orthopedic and joint replacement surgeon, patiently asked an elderly woman about her knee problems, conducted several examinations, wrote down some prescriptions and offered his counsel to the grateful woman.
In other rooms, other doctors and consultants were engaged in similar exercise, conducting medical examinations and offering expert advice to patients free of charge. For four year, Kunle Sonaike, the medical director of P & G hospital has conducted free medical services for the people of Oko Oba Agege and beyond, bringing experts in various diseases from India to Nigeria.
“We do this once a year, bringing experts from India to treat people here for free, most of the ailments for which people travel to India are treated here and the special cases that need expert care in India are referred,” Sonaike said.
The visit of specialized doctors from Jaypee hospital which is described as “the jewel in healthcare delivery” was facilitated by a renowned medical assistant company, High Beam Global based in Delhi, India. According to Abhik Moitra, the President and Director, the company is in the business of helping individuals and organizations to bring out options and outlook for immediate, cost effective private medical treatment in India.
“Our aim is to make it hassle free for people around the globe to travel for world class and affordable medical treatments to India,” Moitra told Southwest Report.
But Sonaike has other motives for providing free medicare for his community; he wanted to create awareness about cancer and other ailments which are often attributed to spiritual attack and the diabolical.
“But we are trying to change all that. People know now that these are medical conditions that if presented early can be solved. That is why we have decided that once every year we will bring experts who are our partners from India to this community to also see and treat people for free, we have been attending to people free for a week now and we have seen quite a number of patients,” Sonaike said.
The Indians are also coming to build capacity for Nigerian doctors with the aim of building a multi specialty hospital in Nigeria which in due course will be able to handle cases hitherto referred to India.
“Our motive is humanitarian, but we are also trying to build capacity here. We are coming to create a giant hospital in Nigeria, we will build capacity here, Nigeria has skillful doctors already but doing a surgery needs more than a good doctor, we are starting a process partnering with P & G hospital and we hope to start from there,” Moitra said. The other doctors agreed with him.
But Nigeria has major challenges in creating a post surgery support system. “The first thing is to have a good intensive care programme, there are people who have died due to poor post surgery treatment, that is why we need to create the right environment,” Sonaike said.
We receive 25 Nigerian patients every month
For many years, India has been the preferred destination of Nigerians for medical tourism especially for heart diseases and other complex sicknesses. But India did not become the favoured medical tourism destination overnight. In 1993, the government overhauled the health sector initiating a Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme. The government also encouraged many of its over 30,000 doctors practicing in the United States back home and creating supportive policies.
Today there are about 120 countries including the developed world sending patients to India and in the developing world, Nigeria tops the list of countries with the highest medical tourism in India. According to the figures from the Indian Ministry of Health, in 2013, 35,000 patients came from Nigeria to India, the figure dropped drastically in 2014 with only 18,900 patients. Through the facilitation of High Beam Global, there have been more than 12,000 Nigerian patients in India in the last five years.
“Every month, we have at least 25 patients from Nigeria come to India through us for medical treatment,” Moitra said.
All the medical doctors on the trip has had robust engagements with Nigerian patients, Ashutosh Marwah a Pediatric Cardiologist who has treated many Nigerian children for heart problems said the high birth rate in Nigeria ensures that there are more cases of heart problems involving children in Nigeria.
“I have seen complex heart conditions close to 100 from Nigeria and because you have younger population so the cases are more. Also, you have more women giving birth after 40 years which is a high risk index. But the trend is that most of the cases that we have seen are presented when they become complex especially cancer and cardiac cases,” Marwah said.
But if the partnership between P & G and High Beam Global progresses, then some categories of major surgeries will be done before the end of the year at the hospital, says Sonaike. This prospect should be good news for thousands of medical tourists who get swindled by unscrupulous agents every year. “The reason why High Beam is involved is because many Nigerians go to India without expert guidance which is what High Beam provides. They have the best specialists and they are here to help,” he said.
Sonaike said Nigeria must attract back home the thousands of Nigerian doctors in the US and Europe.
“We have to get them back, this is why our vision here is to help create the best private teaching hospital in Nigeria, we have seen it in India and we can do it here, most of the ailments that travels to India can and should be done here.”
So what do the Indians think about Nigeria? Gupta who was one of the Indian Diaspora doctors said: “The impression is that Nigerians are humble, great hospitality, patient people. You have great command of English even better than Indians and will some economic reforms you will be good.”
Gupta also has an optimistic view of Nigeria’s medical future: “ The attitude is there and the skills too, already the doctors have started to do some complex open heart surgeries and joint replacements, soon the expertise will flow back to Nigeria,” he said with a smile as another patient waited for his attention who will be treated free of charge.