Calabar Medical Tourism: How to Avoid The Tinapa Mistake BY PRINCEWILL OJONG ODIDI
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Calabar Medical Tourism: How to Avoid The Tinapa Mistake BY PRINCEWILL OJONG ODIDI

Princewill Ojong Odidi

by crossriverwatch admin

Princewill Ojong Odidi
Princewill Ojong Odidi

It is unimaginable but true, Nigerians spend billions of naira in India yearly on medical tourism. Within the last five years, the Indian embassy recorded the highest number of visa request from any single country seeking permits to visit India for medical reasons from Nigeria with exception of United States.

The failure of the Nigerian government to develop certain sectors of the economy has created big business in other competing countries. Education tourism into Ghana is galloping over 150 billion naira yearly as recently reported by Punch newspapers, shopping tourism into Dubai as reported by national economic frontier is at 165 billion naira annually, vacation tourism into South Africa showing a tourism and trade imbalance, sports tourism were local fans prefer European football to local leagues and now medical tourism into India.

Nigeria’s greatest asset today is neither our crude oil nor national reserve, our greatest asset is our population and human resources. Using the population advantage, we can have one of the most robust self- sustaining economies in the world.

Tourism transcends guest lodging into hotels or visitation to tour sites. Tourism includes exploration of all facets of an economy ranging from health, commerce, education, food, sports, knowledge and much more.

When Donald Duke visited Dubai he saw the tourist and market potential of the city, he dreamt of a Dubai in Calabar called Tinapa, but failure to comprehend that a successful market transcends buying and selling of goods and accessories, but also includes planning, logistical support, technology and other infrastructural support has finally led to the proposed takeover of the Tinapa project by AMCON. What remains of the dream today is a mute question.

In computer programming, it is assumed that, to understand a program, you have to study its source codes. In the same way, to understand how Dubai or India became a success, we needed to study the market dynamics that defined their success stories, the planning, human resource development, the logistical build up, the creation of a market niche, the anticipated target populations, information networks and how all these varied components correlate to produce a successful industry.

It is not my intention to criticize ongoing government policies or projects, since I am not privy to factors that led to those decisions, however, I will lay out assumptions and parameters that should be in place to ensure a successful medical tourism industry in Calabar. if these factors are already in the master plan pending commissioning in 2015 then we have a success story, if not, then the policy makers should take a careful look at the assumptions listed below.

First, how did India obtain a successful medical tourism industry? India medical tourism is highly specialized. Most common treatments are heart surgery, knee replacement procedures, cosmetic surgery and dental care. The reason India is becoming a favorable destination is because of its infrastructure and technology which is comparable to those in United States, United Kingdom and Europe. The cost of treatment in India is considered the lowest in Asia, much lower than Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Apart from effective treatment in India, they also boast of five star medical facilities, highly trained doctors, nurses and medical technicians, and more importantly, India has no language barrier.

Effective medical treatment requires recuperation and outpatient doctors and specialized nurse visits, India has some of the cheapest hotel rates and extended stay apartment facilities scattered all over the country. The development of India’s medical tourism goes hand in hand with the development of basic infrastructure including uninterrupted electricity, water supply, high speed internet accessibility to support the medical technology and research based institutions of higher learning including stem cell research. Medical tourism in India today is experiencing an annual growth rate of more than 30% making it a 3 billion dollar industry.

In addition, India offers skilled, experienced and trained doctors, physicians and surgeons of international fame and repute, they perform the most complicated surgeries and procedures, the doctors are supported by a strong, comprehensive and well trained paramedical force comprising of nurses, technicians, attendants, clinical coordinators’ and nutritionists.

It should be noted here that successful medical tourism is successful holistic medicine. India is the home of the largest pharmaceutical industry in the world, which has a self sufficient drug production capacity, and exports drugs to over 180 countries across the globe.

India’s medical tourism is also very accessible. Medical Tourism Corporation of India makes travel to India hitch free from any part of the world. Most important, Indian hospitals within the medical tourism Corporations network are JCI (Joint Commission International) accredited, this accreditation ensures that the quality of medical and surgical care is at par with American Medical Standards.

Having stated the above, the question now is, how prepared are we in Cross River State to compete favorably in the medical tourism industry? Let us assume that our proposed target market is the Nigerian population trouping into India in their thousands, how can we attract this market into the proposed Calabar Medical Tourism Industry?

To prevent the Tinapa mistake, the government should consider unraveling the following puzzles and assumptions. This will either aid in perfecting the preparations post commissioning of the project in March 2015 or help policy framers apportion more budgets to sectors that may have been overlooked in the planning stages.

Policy Questions and Options:

1. Treatment and healing in most cases requires recuperation and rest. India has countless health spas, relaxation and meditation centers. Spa treatment, Yoga, and naturopathy has often attracted medical tourist to India. To what extent do we have similar facilities in Calabar? Hotel cost and extended stay facilities are pretty cheap in India, how comparable are hotels in Calabar? While the government alone cannot continue to set up small scale auxiliary businesses to aid the proposed medical industry, the government can provide the enabling environment and incentives to the private sector to get this relaxation centers up and running and to provide long term lodging facilities for medical tourist requiring extended stays during and after treatment.

2. The quality of doctors, nurses, paramedics and technicians is significant in a successful medical tourism industry. The government of India for over 4 decades has invested heavily in training medical personnel. To what extent has the University of Calabar teaching hospital been funded to help it produce state of the Art medical doctors? To what extent has medical doctors in Calabar been prepared to meet medical industrial best practices as obtained all over the world? To what extent has modern medical technology been introduced to State and federal owned hospitals in Calabar? To what extent has the curriculum in University of Calabar Medical School and Teaching Hospital been upgraded to meet international standards and to prepare her graduates to pass international medical board exams?

3. What are the continuing education options available to our doctors to bring them at par with their counterparts in other parts of the globe? To what extent has the local School of Health Technology and Nursing schools in Calabar been upgraded so that graduating students from these schools can meet the current health challenges in the nursing practice and professionalism in today’s world? How current and up-to-date are lecturers in these nursing schools with the use and application of modern nursing equipment and technology? Can the state consider sponsoring doctors, nurses and technicians from our institutions to serve as medical observers in developed countries and bring international expatriates to work side by side with our local doctors to improve capacity and training and to get them prepared for the challenges ahead?

4. India has a well regulated Pharmaceutical Industry and medical research industry. To what extent are our local chemist and pharmacies regulated to ensure fake drugs are kept out of the shelves?

5. A successful medical industry will include both state of the Art hospital and reputable doctors: To what extent are our local hospitals upgraded to meet international standards? While effort is being made to complete the specialist hospital come 2015, we should understand this facility on its own will not be efficient, it will need to create synergy with other local hospitals in the city to function effectively.

6. To what extent are the capacity development of supporting hospitals within the Calabar district been able to match the capacity expectations of the proposed specialist hospital? While the Joint venture partners maybe planning to bring in expatriate doctors from overseas to run the facility, to what extent can this planning be sustained? What will be the cost implications of bringing expatriates to run a specialist hospital in Nigeria to the end users? Remember the role cost plays in India’s medical tourism. Again, how long can we sustain this venture? Do we also plan to bring in expatriate supporting staff, expatriate paramedics, expatriates nurses and technicians? If the answer is no, then let’s go back to the drawing board and prepare our home based professionals to meet the proposed challenges.

7. Successful medical tourism implies easy accessibility to the facility. How accessible is Calabar to the rest of Nigeria? How many flights are available from major cities in Nigeria to Calabar apart from flights coming in from Lagos and Abuja? How accessible are the local roads to support this industry most importantly, for those who would not fly?

8. A good specialist hospital is not just how lovely the facility looks; a good specialist hospital is the quality of health care provided and professionals that make up the team of care givers. More attention should be directed to the development of human resources rather than architectural beautification. If Ghana could put her educational facilities together and attract educational tourism from Nigeria, then we can do the same. If Dubai could put her market together and attract Nigerians to travel there for shopping extravaganza, then as a country we can, if South Africa could improve on her beaches, hotels, museums and other attractions that has led to so many Nigerians trouping there for vacation, then as a people we can, and if India could develop her medical human resources so much so that it attracts close to 3 billion dollars annually, then as a people, with the right mind sets in place, focused, trained, experienced and talented leadership in place, we can.


    • 10 years ago

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