Some investors in Nigeria’s healthcare industry are seeking high and advanced medical technology to attract expensive patients with a penchant for buying specialized care abroad.
They are combining the latest medical equipment with the expertise of highly trained health consultants to improve the quality of care available locally, particularly in areas such as reproductive care.
Projections from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) show that Nigeria could become the world’s second most populous country by 2100, with 791 million people. Africa’s population is expected to grow by 86%, from 1.3 billion in 2020 to 2.5 billion in 2050, with Nigeria estimated to lead most of that growth.
Despite this, a significant group of Nigerians face reproductive challenges that healthcare entrepreneurs are now finding opportunities to solve.
One Wellness Centre, a subsidiary of the Fetal Medicine Foundation in Belgium, has made a new investment in assisted reproductive technologies that expand access to precise fertility research, treatment and personalized procedures for obstetrics and gynecology.
The center aims to alleviate the fears and concerns that often accompany reproductive research from the first consultation through post-procedure care.
Chibuki Aigbe, the center’s practice manager, said the feasibility study conducted at the local reproductive market revealed that of about 30 specialist fertility facilities in the country, only one had the latest technology.
The organization also found that for most, the success rate was between 30 and 40 percent, which with its investment in expertise and technology could reach around 60 percent.
This equipment includes micromanipulators, incubators, and 3D and 4D prenatal screening machines. It has the capacity to perform procedures such as ovarian rejuvenation, hysteroscopy without anesthesia, assisted hatching, in vitro fertilization (IVF), colposcopy, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, intrauterine insemination, egg and sperm storage, among others.
“We have had to take many steps beyond what the best on the market offered. We have made a large investment in technology and staff to offer customized and personalized management protocols. We want to curb medical tourism and let people get the procedure cheaper here than abroad,” Aigbe said. Speaking during the official opening of the center in Lagos.
For investors like One Wellness Centre, the reproductive care market has enormous potential to minimize capital flight through medical tourism abroad.
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It is believed that if specialty care providers can deliver the quality of services and experience that match the standards sought after in destinations such as the UK, India, and Saudi Arabia, among others, high-end patients can spend money in Nigeria. .
In his 15-year career specializing in orthopedic practice, John Ogedengbe, an orthopedic surgeon, said his experience shows that the main challenge in curbing medical tourism stems from a lack of expertise and high-quality service, not a shortage of funding. .
He pointed out that it helps investors retain clients when people see that the result is the same as what can be obtained anywhere else in the world and the quality is correct.
Downplaying the case for affordability in the provision of expensive but widely needed medical interventions, however, has become a point of contention for other care providers who insist that unlocking the core market for reproductive care lies with more than 82 million of poor Nigerians.
For example, Olasupo Orimogunje, head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at Evercare Hospital, Lekki, expressed concern that the country has millions who cannot afford even 10 percent of what these procedures cost, despite having the greater need of them.
Throwing in the perspective of the public sector, Khadijat Hassan, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at the Maternal and Child Center, Eti-Osa, said that more than 50 percent of the women seen at the clinic have infertility problems, with 30 percent requiring these services.
She explained that a common silent cause among the poor is vaginal infection, which is often treated suboptimally, without the intervention of a fertility specialist. This eventually leads to blocked tubes, which reduces the chances of conception.
“Most of the people who really need them are in poor communities and don’t have access to the required financing. There must be collaboration in financing. If it is in the range of N200,000, most of them can afford it, even if it is cheap,” Hassan explained.
“But when you tell them that the treatment will be millionaire, they leave you and go to the herbalists who will continue to deceive them. Some of them suffer a lot of psychological and physical injuries during the process of getting pregnant.”
In reaction, Aigbe said the organization has arrangements such as discounted IVF procedures and fertility investigations to ease the cost burden of the poor.
It also has alliances with some financial institutions to offer low-interest credit facilities to these people.