Time to End Medical Tourism: Gov’t Spends Much on Officials Health; Ordinary Liberians Dying


WHEN DECEASED FORMER Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Edward B. McClain, Jr., took ill, he was immediately flown to South Africa to receive treatment at the expense of the Liberian Government.

SAME WAS ALSO done for former Minister of Finance and Development Planning in 2013, Amara Konneh who, after a tiring workday, fainted and was flown to Accra, Ghana where doctors advised that he should take a rest.

FORMER EXECUTIVE PROTECTION Service Director Othello Warrick was flown to Dakar, Senegal when he needed quick medical attention, although he gave up the ghost while enroute for treatment. Warrick corpse was later flown home again at the expense of the state same as Dr. McClain.

THIS CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBEd as what has been aptly coined as medical tourism—the flying of government officials and citizens abroad to seek medical care for common illnesses such as malaria and so forth has been on the rise since the ascendancy of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led government.

IN LIBERIA, THE SIGNS of government officials being benefactors of medical tourism are all too visible. When the head of one of the integrity institutions was heading for a conference in Accra, a lump sum was requested from the institution’s budget to do what was described as “medical checkup.”

PRESIDENT SIRLEAF HERSELF is at the lead of this medical tourism, pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, into the health sector of other countries while the health system at home remains awful.

TODAY THE JOHN F. Kennedy medical Center is struggling with a small budget and unable to do many things while the government spends huge sums of money sending officials abroad for treatment.

THE ORDINARY LIBERIANS are left to struggle and die with no adequate medical facility and equipment to provide the necessary medical treatment.

WHAT IS EVEN FRUSTRATING Is while thousands of Liberians die from common diseases due to poor health care delivery system, corpses of government officials are flown home on flights from long distance countries where the government spends large amounts of money bringing these corpses home.

MEDICAL TOURISM IS BECOMING popular on the continent with African leaders, who often treat their health sector with neglect, often in the lead and trailed by their wealthy citizens in what is generating millions—and sometimes billions—for other countries.

NIGERIAN PRESIDENT, MOHAMMEDU BUHARI, promised to end medical tourism when he was elected but when he flew to London recently to see an ENT (ear, nose throat) specialist in London to treat an ear infection which could have been done right in Nigeria, critics lambasted him for reneging on his promise.

MEDICAL TOURISM IS A GROWINg sector in India with the sector estimated to be worth $3 billion dollars, according to Wikipedia. It is expected to grow $7-8 billion by 2020.

EXPERTS SAY OVER THE LAST YEAR, India received $1 billion dollars in medical tourism and bulk of that came from the continent of Africa, including Liberia, where it was reported that embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives, J. Alex Tyler, was flown on a hastily arranged flight to India following a hypertension attack.

IN LIBERIA, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS have been pumped into the nation’s health sector by the government, donors and other partners to bolster health care in the country.

BUT THE TRUST IN THESE institutions is often lacking, evident of the constant travelling abroad by officials of government to seek treatment at a price, when tabulated over the years, would have had yielded an immense benefit in the health sector.

BUT SUCH IS THE SORRY STATE OF Liberia’s health sector which is yet to bounce beyond or even reach its prewar levels.

WITH THE JFK HOSPITAL now labeled as “Just for Killing” and the Jackson F. Doe Hospital is heading on a downward spiral, it is now a matter of the Benjamin—those who have the top dollar to splurge will see themselves jet setting to a far off destination, probably India, where hospitals are not just for killing.