Why Buhari Travels Abroad For Medical Treatment, Why His Ailment Is Kept Secret – Health Minister

While speaking in a telephone interview with THISDAY,  the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, on Saturday, explained the rationale behind President Muhammadu Buhari’s preference for medical treatment abroad, saying it was to protect the president’s privacy as the country has remained unable to manage information.

The minister said the president’s preference for foreign medical care was, however, 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.

Using the travail of Yusuf, the only son of Buhari, who was involved in a motorbike crash last year in Abuja, as an example, he said it was obvious that the privacy of a patient could easily be compromised in the country.

He said; “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.”  

Speaking further, the minister offered more insights into the president’s inclination to foreign medical care, explaining that it was because the president wanted to guard his privacy, suggesting it was necessitated by the need to protect his medical records from leaking to unauthorised quarters. 

He insisted that the president, as an individual, deserved some privacy, which should be respected and that the constant probing into his medical tourism in Britain was not helping matters.

Adewole, however, assured Nigerians that in spite of Buhari’s preference for foreign treatment, the president’s belief in the country’s health system was very strong. He said this was why, in spite of pressures from family and relatives, the president insisted Yusuf must be, and was indeed, treated in Nigeria.

“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 said.

He pleaded that the president be left alone, urging that his right of choice of medical facility be respected. “So, let’s not over flog it. To me, it’s a non-issue,” he said.

Adewole insisted that Buhari’s preference for foreign medical care was not an indictment of the nation’s health care system, contending that the president was committed to upgrading the sector.

“He is committed to improving the health sector, and working hard to make it something everybody would be proud of,” he said, adding, “But you know doing this would not happen overnight.”

The minister explained that because of the complexities of procurement in the sector, things had to be properly done.

According to him, “Like the upgrade we are doing for cancer, it has taken us almost one year because things have to be properly done. It is not like going to a shop to buy a shoe. You know if you don’t have a shoe, you walk to Wuse market and in the next 30 minutes, you can buy a shoe. You can’t buy a radiotherapy machine if there is no proper assessment.

“So upgrading the health facility, he is committed to that. But it’s not going to happen immediately. And we are working hard to make sure that things are in proper shape.”

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