Gov’t Implored to Put Private & Public Hospitals on Equal Footing

Private medical facilities in Viet Nam, which account for 6% of the system, receive unfair treatment from state hospitals, complained delegates at a conference held yesterday in Ha Noi.

A US$1.2 million CT scanner recently installed at the MEDIC center

At the national conference titled “Mobilizing public sources into healthcare sector”, Nguyen Van De, chairman of Hop Luc General Hospital in Thanh Hoa Province said health authorities generally consider public [state-run] hospitals as their “biological children while private ones as adopted”.

Some public hospitals even forbade their staff from supplying equipment or blood to private ones even in needy times, he added.

Most state hospitals at district levels would transfer their patients to provincial state hospitals and if patients want to be admitted to private facilities, they would have to “beg”, he continued.

Then, some universities refuse to train medical employees or doctors who do not work for a public hospital.

In addition, De complained his hospital was imposed a cap on treatment fees and therefore, could not find funds to improve its equipment or treatment quality.

However, Minister of Health Nguyen Quoc Trieu interrupted De at this point, saying the ministry only requires private hospitals to fully publicize their fees but does not put any limit on them. It later turned out the cap was stipulated by the Thanh Hoa administration which is yet to seek approval from the central government.

Vu The Hung, chairman of the Medical Technology Development Company which runs 7 research and medical centers across the nation, told Sai Gon Giai Phong that health authorities in Ho Chi Minh City even forbids private hospitals to do general medical checkups.

Furthermore, Vu Thi Tu Hang, director of Da Nang Hospital for Common People, complained that the health ministry classifies private hospitals as third tier though some have adopted advance techniques.

Meanwhile, most delegates lamented that medical insurance premiums are too low, causing difficulties to the health sector and resulting in brain drains for doctors, and poor treatment quality.

Everyday hundreds of Vietnamese travel to Singapore for medical treatment, they pointed out.

According to Government figures, Viet Nam has more than 30,000 private healthcare practices nationwide, including 66 hospitals, 300 clinics, and 87 midwife centers, which all treat 3 million people per year. At present, 22 private medical facilities are being built. 

Empowering public hospitals

At the conference, health minister Trieu said his ministry is considering making public hospitals more autonomous in financial management.

"The Ho Chi Minh City Medical and Pharmaceutical University Hospital will be piloting the project," Trieu said.

The scheme, awaiting Government approval, would change the way hospitals handle financing and fees - including health insurance - and public and private services.

"It is aimed at encouraging creativity and talent, improving treatment quality and raising incomes for health employees" said Dr Duong Huy Lieu, director of the ministry’s Department of Planning and Finance.

He said autonomous hospitals would initially receive financial support from the state but would afterwards handle their own financing. However, they would remain state-run.

This self-governing model is something entirely new in Viet Nam, Lieu added.

By Nam Quoc, Dinh Lan – Translated by BH

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