President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday inaugurated the NSIA-LUTH advanced cancer treatment centre located in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos.
The Cancer Treatment Centre was structured under a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement between the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA and the LUTH.
The project is an $11 million investment for the rehabilitation, equipping and operation of an existing cancer centre co-located in LUTH, which will provide advanced radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment services.
Buhari said 40 per cent of funds spent by Nigerians on medical tourism was spent by patients seeking treatment for cancer. “Despite having an increasing number of citizens suffering from cancer, we until now, had only two working radiotherapy machines in the country.
“Working through the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, we utilized a PPP model that unlocked investment capital to directly address this issue.
“We will replicate this model across the country to bring quality, first class healthcare services to every Nigerian who needs it.
“In the case of the Cancer Centre, we can measure this value in currency, but we prefer to measure the value in terms of its social impact.
“The number of lives of Nigerians that will be saved and positively affected as well as the impact of capacity building for our people,” he said.
Buhari said that over the coming months, the NSIA would also commission two Modern Medical Diagnostic Centres.
“The two centres will be co-located in the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), Kano State and the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia (FMCU), Abia State.
“Our goal today is not simply to celebrate and applaud the culmination of months of hard work to achieve this objective.
“Neither is it solely to revel in the successful completion of the most modern and best equipped Cancer treatment centre in West Africa.
“Indeed we are proud, but we recognise that this modest effort to address the gaps in our tertiary healthcare system is alone insufficient to address all the challenges faced by the sector.
“No one ever prays to be diagnosed with Cancer, but if they are, what we have made possible here today is the hope of a true chance of survival.
“We will continues to push hard to raise awareness about cancer, educate our people, facilitate early diagnosis, but today, many more Nigerians will now have access,” he said.
Uche Orji, the Chief Executive Officer of NSIA, said that the NSIA’s strategy in healthcare was to focus on areas of need within tertiary healthcare that have led to medical tourism to countries in Europe, East Asia and the Middle East.
According to him, he identified Oncology, Nephrology, Cardiology and Orthopaedics as areas of need that had led to medical tourism.
“In a 2012 study by the Ministry of Health, Nigerians’ spend on outbound medical tourism was reported to be about $1 billion a year, with cancer management accounting for more than 40 per cent of this spend.
“Furthermore, in the course of our research, we discovered that of the eight facilities in the country that had radiotherapy machines installed, at the time, only two were functional.
“More so, the two functional machines were frequently broken down causing interruptions to patient treatment.
“NSIA in 2016 announced its investment strategy in healthcare which was to partner with teaching hospitals and federal medical centres in a public private partnership to develop areas of excellence in healthcare.
“Following months of project development, the NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre was built in a record time of nine months and at a cost of approximately $11million. And once it’s fully operational, this will be the largest outpatient cancer treatment centre in West Africa,“ he said.
Orji said that the centre is expected to treat as many as 80 and perhaps up to 100 patients a day. “It is small in the context of the needs we have in Nigeria, but it’s a start,“ he said.
Prof. Chris Bode, the Chief Medical Director of LUTH said that the Centre has three Linear Accelerators, a Brachytherapy Machine, a Treatment Planning System and a Chemotherapy Suite.
He said the equipment are also manned by highly qualified Nigerian Oncologists and competent team.
“The Centre is world-class and no Nigerian cancer patient needs travel abroad again to receive treatment easily obtainable at this centre.
“The centre will also have a training school for oncologists and allied specialities on the cancer management team, so that other institutions can also benefit.
“We are currently training our staff to effectively man the centre which should be running fully as soon as all necessary mandatory operational certifications are obtained in the next six weeks,“ he said.