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Ghana’s Eco Medical Village set to revolutionise Africa’s medicare and health tourism

July 02nd, 2020
topic:Health and Sanitation
by:Bob Koigi
located in:Ghana, Nigeria, India, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda
tags:economic growth, healthcare, medical tourism

Ghana is positioning itself as the next medical tourism destination for Africans with the ongoing construction of an ultra-modern medical facility billed as the largest healthcare project of its kind in West Africa.

The health institution dubbed Eco Medical Village that will sit on 40 acres is poised to be a 1100-bed facility employing more than 5,000 medical and specialised health service workers upon completion. It is being modelled to include a referral centre for diseases, a care centre for the elderly, women and children hospital, disaster management centre and research facilities among other amenities including hotels and pharmacies. It will also offer air ambulance services. To boost convenience and affordability, there are plans to sell Eco-Med Insurance with the Eco-Med Card being offered by West African banks.

The brains behind the concept Peter Ahiekpor got his inspiration after having to make trips to the UK every six months for a medical checkup.

Investments move elsewhere

And as the project now takes shape, it is igniting debate on the health of the medicare sector in Africa as a growing number of people in the continent look to Asia, Europe and the US for specialised treatment due to the dire situation back home. This is not only costly to the individual patients but has seen investments that are desperately needed in the continent move elsewhere.

Neighbouring Nigeria which is betting on the new healthcare facility for affordable healthcare has seen its population spend on average $1 billion every year on foreign medical related services with $26 million spent on India alone every month according to health officials.

In Kenya over 10,000 patients travel out of the country on medical tourism according to data from the Ministry of Health. An estimated $80 million in spent by these patients in India alone each year to manage a growing number of diseases including brain tumours and cancer.

The biggest problem experts now argue lies in lack of investment in the requisite infrastructure, skills and models especially in public hospitals that would offer quality and affordable medical care to the larger population that is heavily dependent on these institutions. Healthcare in Africa, they say, is prohibitively expensive.

Committing to good health of citizens

Yet in 2001 African heads of state drawn from 52 countries gathering in Nigeria pledged to spend 15 per cent of their budgets to improve their individual countries’ health sectors in what was christened The Abuja Declaration. A bulk of the African countries are also signatories to the UN Sustainable Development Goal of promoting good health and well-being of their citizens. Years down the line, reviews indicate only a sizeable number of countries have lived up to their commitment among them Rwanda, Zambia and Tanzania.

Others like Uganda have even reduced their spending on budget. The East African nation trimmed the share of its national budget on health in 2019/2020 financial year to 8.9 per cent from 9.2 per cent in the previous year. The situation is replicated in the continent. In 2015, Africa accounted for one per cent of the world health spending despite bearing 23 per cent of the global disease burden according to a research paper by the Brookings Institute.

“At least 11 percent of Africans experience catastrophic spending for health care every year, while as many as 38 percent delay or forgot health care due to high costs. If the ambitious SDGs are to be reached in Africa, significant efforts must be made to change the current spending environment,” the research stated.

The public health sector is a ticking time bomb, experts insist, arguing that time is ripe for the private sector to step up, innovate and explore alternative financing models that cover their margins while providing affordable medicine. “The state of the public health sector in the continent is deplorable because those in government can easily afford to travel abroad for medical attention so this area would never be of concern to them. The sector is bleeding under massive brain drain as the well trained doctors look for better opportunities in developed countries. There is no commitment to rescue this very vital industry. Insurance uptake on the other hand is dismal. The industry needs a serious overhaul,” said Martin Ngoloba a public health analyst in East Africa.

With Africa having traditionally missed the opportunities that come with medical tourism, Ghana’s Eco Medical Village could just be the continent’s game changer.

Article written by:
Bildschirmfoto-2014-10-08-um-19.29.13
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Ghana Nigeria India Kenya Rwanda Zambia Tanzania Uganda
The health institution dubbed Eco Medical Village that will sit on 40 acres is poised to be a 1100-bed facility employing more than 5,000 medical and specialized health service workers.
The biggest problem experts now argue lies in lack of investment in the requisite infrastructure.
With Africa having traditionally missed the opportunities that come with medical tourism, Ghana’s Eco Medical Village could just be the continent’s game changer.