Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre Poised to Reverse Medical Tourism in Nigeria

For Nigerians passionate about premium services and top-notch facilities in health care delivery, the country’s first fully-equipped private oncology centre, the Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre (MRCC) should be a natural choice.

This purpose-built, fully equipped facility, located in Victoria Island, has an imaging centre with CT, mammogram, a laboratory and blood bank, two modular operating theatres, an eight-bed chemotherapy suite, a radiotherapy centre with a linear accelerator, fifteen en-suite inpatient rooms and in-house oncology, as well as general pharmacies. Very few people will value first-class health services compared to those who could not fly abroad because of travel restrictions, underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic. The importance of in-country diagnosis of cancer and other chronic diseases can never be underestimated.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was so impressed with the quality of what was unveiled a few days ago that he declared that with facilities like the ones at Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre, Nigeria is getting ready to reverse medical tourism.

The governor, expressing the state’s readiness to put its weight behind this unique effort, stated that: “We are donating one specialist cancer centre within the next 12 months to add to MRCC and the oncology centre in LUTH. Looking at the statistics, we need ten more just to scratch the surface based on the number of cancer patients we are seeing. This is part of the medical infrastructure transformation project we are working on, which cuts across all the disciplines of health – primary, secondary and tertiary.”

Latest findings show that Nigeria loses over N576b ($1.2b) yearly to medical tourism. Nigerians have for decades suffered from an inadequately funded healthcare system, squalid clinics and hospitals, as well as poorly paid and overworked healthcare workers who frequently move abroad for employment. There are at least 8,178 medical doctors of Nigerian origin working in the U.K., according to data on the U.K. General Medical Council website. The exodus has worsened healthcare in a country according to the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA).

Before the dawn of COVID-19 last year, reports suggested that almost 5,000 people leave the country monthly for various forms of treatment abroad. However, the investigation revealed that the rate of medical tourism reduced drastically since January 2020 due to the outbreak of the pandemic and the travel restrictions that followed.

In the midst of such discouraging reports, the unveiling of MRCC gives the average Nigerian a reason to smile. An obviously elated Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and co-founder, of Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre, Dr Modupe Elebute Odunsi, said the facility was a comprehensive one-stop-shop where every issue relating to cancer, including diagnosis can be addressed.

She said: “The centre has an array of highly skilled medical professionals across the globe under one roof, equipped with ultramodern infrastructure and technology for cancer care in Nigeria, dubbed ‘Why go abroad for these services?’.

“It is equipped with a state-of-the-art radiotherapy centre kitted with linear accelerator and brachytherapy, modern laboratory services, two operating theatres, an eight-bed chemotherapy suite, 15 private ensuites inpatient rooms, pharmacy and counselling service.

“The MRCC is a private investment tailored intentionally to capture a significant percentage of cancer medical tourist patients and to be a reference point for research, data analysis and a training institute for key players and stakeholders for not just Nigerians but Sub-Saharan Africa.’

The centre boasts of high tech cancer screening clinics, on-site radiotherapy service with state-of-the-art equipment, multi-disciplinary clinical service by world-renowned specialists, Robust IT systems to ensure the safe delivery of treatment at all times, on-site chemotherapy service delivered in comfortable ‘pods’, and high-tech diagnostic imaging and pathology service.

In Nigeria, there has always been this huge gap in care for cancer patients, especially in the areas of diagnostics and radiotherapy treatment.

Ideally, there should be one radiotherapy machine per 100,000 population but in Nigeria, there are about ten functional ones with just about 3-4 functioning at a particular time. This is where MRCC would bridge the gap massively.

The centre is partnering with renowned personnel in the medical field in the US and the UK, some of whom would be here full-time and some of whom would be working with the hospital in what is called a ‘tumour board’ which can be done virtually.

According to the former Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, the facility came at a time of shortage of centres that deal with cancers:

“MRCC has all the medical resources that people go abroad to get. There is more to come as the health sector is changing with other private facilities springing and we are going to covered by the Health Insurance Scheme which will be better for the poor to even afford.”

Clearly, assembling such a top-quality facility came with massive resources. The Chairman of the hospital, Bolaji Odunsi, revealed the huge roles played by Polaris Bank and the Central Bank of Nigeria in making the project a reality. The centre was a huge beneficiary of some COVID-related healthcare intervention funds.

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The well-attended unveiling ceremony drew top dignitaries from all walks of life, including Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote; Speaker House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; First Lady of Lagos State, Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu; and her Kebbi and Ondo state counterparts, Zainab S. Bagudu and Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu respectively.

The hospital houses qualified specialists with local and international experiences to offer quality medical services in addition to specialist services such as urology, sickle cell research, and stem cell transplant, which are largely unavailable in the country.

These new solutions are designed to expand capacity and improve quality for diagnosis and treatment at MRCC and help meet the needs of the community within the country and region.

According to a study by the World Health Organisation, it is possible to prevent a third of cancer cases and treat many other cases with early diagnosis and treatment. Latest statistics reveal that cancer accounts for 18.2% of premature deaths attributable to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and in 2018, of the 115,950 cancer cases reported, 70,327 patients did not survive.

It is commendable that the owners of MRCC have chosen to bring their vast experiences, resources, their specialist team, as well as the latest technology and treatments to try to achieve the best outcomes possible in Nigeria.

From screening and diagnosis to treatment and ongoing support, they have declared their commitment to providing outstanding care to those coming for their services. In all these, they believe that the heavy dose of compassion and care they share can help to make all the difference.

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