In what is perhaps the clearest and most tangible explanation yet for President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent medical trips abroad, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has disclosed that the President prefers foreign medicare because there is no confidentiality in doctor-patient relationship in Nigeria.
The best explanation presidential spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, could give before now on their principal’s preference for foreign medicare was that it was his right to seek medical treatment wherever he wished.
Buhari on Friday evening flew into Nigeria from his four-day medical trip to the United Kingdom, telling reporters at the airport in Abuja that, “I went for further medical checkup. I am alright”.
While stressing that Buhari’s preference was not an indictment of the nation’s health care system, the minister was categorical that Buhari travels overseas for medicals in order to protect his privacy as the country has remained unable to manage information.
Citing an example with the travail of Yusuf, the only son of Buhari, who was involved in a motorbike crash last year in Abuja, he said it was obvious that the privacy of a patient could easily be compromised in the country.
Adewole, who spoke in an interview with ThisDay, maintained that the president’s preference for foreign medical care was not an indictment of the nation’s health system, adding that Buhari was committed to uplifting the sector to a standard that every Nigerian would be proud of.
His words, “You have forgotten that as our president, he is also an individual. Unfortunately, we still, as a country, we cannot handle information. The president’s son was operated; they said he was dead. You see, it is a strange country; and so, we do not respect people’s right to privacy and confidentiality. We also have no respect for doctor-patient relationship.
“The same person who went abroad was the same person who said, let my son be managed in Nigeria. I was at the centre; people said let the boy be flown abroad. The president said no. All he asked was, ‘Can they manage him in Nigeria?’ I said, yes, and he said, ‘Go ahead’.”
Adewole stated that Buhari’s inclination to foreign medical care was because of his desire to guard his privacy, suggesting it was necessitated by the need to protect his medical records from leaking to unauthorised quarters. He maintained that the president’s belief in Nigeria’s health system was very strong, pointing out that this was why, in spite of pressures from family and relatives, the president insisted Yusuf must be, and was indeed, treated in Nigeria.