OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives has rejected a Bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act to regulate international medical trips by public officials.
The House at the committee of the whole rejected the bill sponsored by Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo) on Tuesday.
The bill sought to amendment of section 46 of the principal act by substituting the existing section 46 with a new “section 46 (1) -(8)” sub-section 6(1) of which says:
“a public officer of the Federal Government shall not embark on medical trip abroad without approval; or be sponsored for medical check-up, investigation or ’treatment abroad at public expenses except in exceptional cases on the recommendation and referral by the medical board and which recommendation or referral shall be duly approved by the Minister or Commissioner as the case may be; or
“embark on medical trip abroad unless he satisfactorily proves to the office where the officer is working, that such ailment cannot be treated in Nigeria.”
The Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committee of the whole, Lasun Yusuf took the first shot at the bill, attacking the bill as breach on fundamental human right.
“This bill is against my fundamental human right. There are two fundamental wrongs in this bill, it is against human right, and its discriminatory. Do not let us do a debate on this bill,” he said.
Also speaking against the bill, Rasak Atunwa (PDP, Kwara) also followed the same path as the deputy speaker, noting that people should not be punished for mismanagement of the healthcare sector.
“This bill negates fundamental human right, its discriminatory, the fact that I am public servant does not mean I have given up my right. If the government had failed in providing hospital, we cannot punish someone for it. The intention is right, but the way he (Ogun) is going about it is wrong. Better funding for training of doctors, better funding for hospitals is the right way to go.”
Exercising his right of reply however, Mr. Ogun who was visibly angry stressed that the bill is all about taking drastic step to check medical tourism by public officials.
He said: “The Asians have perfected this; the middle easterners have perfected this. If the people that will pass the budget are the ones that will run on the next available flight oversea for medical treatment, we need to do something about it.”
The Deputy Leader of the House, Idris Wase (APC, Plateau) narrated his ordeal in the hand of a Nigerian doctor who misdiagnosed him. Hear him: “I was in a hospital in Nigeria for check-up and they said I was in fine; friends encouraged me to travel for checkup, only to discover that I was not okay, I spent 3 months there, now you are telling me to get approval from Attorney General before I can travel for medical trip; please this bill should be thrown out, he (Sergius) just came back from abroad. Instead of banning people from travelling, we should create enabling environment for people to invest in the health care sector.”
Also speaking on the report, Zakari Muhammed (PDP, Kwara) raised concern over vulnerablity of the bill to abuse.
“What If I belong to opposition party, and the AG decides to prevent me from travelling?”
Most members who spoke faulted the provisions of the bill and it was consequently stepped down by the chairman of the committee on Rules and Business, Edward Pwajok (PDP, Plateau) who also criticised the provisions of the bill.