An Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Prof. Samuel Adoga, has urged the Federal Government to include
cochlear implants for patients suffering from deafness in the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) coverage.
Adoga who works at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Plateau State, made the call during a virtual Stakeholders’ forum to Review the outlook of Cochlear Nucleus Implantation in Nigeria, organised by Cochlear Ltd, a medical device company.
He described cochlear implant as a piece of electronic prosthesis used for the rehabilitation of profound hearing loss and deafness.
According to him, the inclusion of the cochlear implants in the coverage of the NHIA will subsidise the price, increase access to the treatment and reduce medical tourism.
“Cochlear implant is an expensive treatment. Available data shows the total costs of cochlear implants, including the devices, surgery and rehabilitation is about N20 million in Nigeria, and $50,000 to $100,000 in Europe and the United States, respectively.
“Many Nigerians, especially the poor cannot afford it. This is why we are urging the government to formulate policies that subsidise the cost for Nigerian patients.
“In Europe, any child delivered with hearing loss will have cochlear implants because they are enrolled for health insurance. In Egypt, the government pays for one year.
“We need the government to intervene in this aspect by including this treatment in the coverage of the NHIA, ” Adoga said.
Also speaking, Dr Pokop Bupwatda, Chief Medical Director, JUTH, called for the training of ENT specialists in the area of Cochlear implants in Nigeria.
In his remarks, Mr Marwan Salama, the Business Manager North East and Sub-Saharan Africa, Cochlear Ltd, said the company invested over two billion Australian dollars in research and development of cochlear implants.
Salama said their goal was to transform the lives of patients with hearing impairments.
He said the event was to gather policymakers, healthcare professionals and stakeholders to develop a guideline on how to alleviate the sufferings of patients with hearing impairment in Nigeria.
“Cochlear helps to restore hearing and connect people to a world of sound. We seek government’s support to implement Cochlear implantation programme in Nigeria through the NHIA.
“We also call for the introduction of Newborn Hearing screening and financing the services of implantation in well equipped federal hospitals across the four regions in Nigeria.
“This will ease access for citizens and reduce the rate of medical tourism,” he said.
Responding, The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammed Pate, said hearing loss was a disability that required attention to improve patient’s quality of life.
Pate who was represented by Mrs Nma Ogbonna, Head, Health Research Ethics Branch of the Ministry, said they would consider the technology to provide the best way forward for patients with hearing impairment.