Air Ambulance’s, Centralized Healthcare and Nigeria

*So yesterday a few Nigerian Newspapers, published a remixed version of this article ;-) under far more sensational headlines like ‘FG Set to save billions by investing in air ambulance services’. This is actually my original article, which I feel covey’s my meaning better. Hopefully is an enjoyable read on a subject I am very passionate about*

As President Muhammed Buhari leaves on another medical trip to London this week, many Nigerian’s ask why don’t we have a facility in Nigeria that can provide the level of care the President is receiving, here in Nigeria? The problem is obviously not the doctors; doctors trained in Nigeria, practice all over the world with little or no re-training required.The main problem is that healthcare (building, equipping and running hospitals) is very expensive and the Nigerian government does not have enough money to place centers of medical excellence in every single state.

Currently, our healthcare budget is spread across many different healthcare facilities of varying degree’s of specialization. However, none of them receive as much investment as we would like.

If there cannot be a center of medical excellence in every state, then Nigeria needs to develop its air ambulance infrastructure led by companies such as the Flying Doctors Nigeria Air Ambulance service, to ensure that patients can access healthcare.

The UK National Health Service (NHS) budget is well over $100 billion per year and is stressed covering 65 million citizens. Nigeria’s entire healthcare budget is less than $1 billion with a population of 170 million people.

Putting a state of the art hospital in every state of Nigeria would cost an estimated $30bn, more than double our National budget!

*Nigeria’s budget in 2017 was approximately $12bn

Even if we had the money, we lack the resources in terms of doctors, nurses, support staff, maintenance engineers to ensure that these hospitals could function effectively.

The only viable alternative is to centralize our healthcare system, with just one or two state of the art centers that are home to Nigeria’s finest and most experienced medical practitioners. These centers would receive the bulk of healthcare investment, allowing doctors to specialize effectively.

Majority of sick people do not need to be in hospital, they can be managed effectively and more cost-effectively ,through primary care systems in the community. But the sickest patients need to be managed in very specialized hospitals by multi-disciplinary teams, supported by complex, expensive equipment.

The centralization of the Nigerian healthcare will allow the best use of our scarce resources; doctors and money

Centralisation of specialized healthcare services is typically characterised by reorganisation of healthcare services into fewer specialised units serving a higher volume of patients and aims to improve patient outcomes and efficiency, according to the British Medical Journal

Dr Ole Tjomsland is director of quality at the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority. He is firmly in support of further centralisation of healthcare. He argues that it’s simply, in the best interests of patients. He claims that ‘it just isn’t possible to provide consistently high-quality procedures in rural centres with low volumes’.

Air ambulance services increase our ability to get the correct patient to the correct medical facility within the correct time frame. This is a system that is used all over the world (>1m air ambulance transfers per year in America, without taking anyone out of America).

The Flying Doctors Nigeria has developed a cost-effective, commercial air ambulance solution that allows patients to be transported by air for less than the price of a ground ambulance. This cost pales in comparison to the cost of developing multiple hospitals which would be financially impossible to staff/equip and run on our current budget.

Air ambulances are the enabler that will improve Nigerian healthcare, by improving access to hospitals and saving the government many billions of dollars by concentrating expert resources and reducing healthcare spending.

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