Poor patients hit hard by Ha Noi's equitisation move

HA NOI  (VNS) — To attract wealthier clients to upmarket, equitised services, some Ha Noi hospitals are taking beds from the poor and putting them in special wards for the rich.

This is one of the many problems hospitals in Ha Noi have with equitisation, which was introduced five years ago.

Others include the purchase of unnecessary equipment, calculating prices for hospital services and "the unfair division of profits between hospitals and investors".

These were the conclusions made by the Ha Noi People's Council last month after checking how the equitisation process was working at eight State hospitals in Ha Noi.

Thanh Nhan Hospital, one of the first hospitals to seek equitisation in the capital, had agreed with its enterprise counterparts that the enterprises would enjoy 80-85 per cent of the profits from the deal, while the hospital would enjoy 15-20 per cent.

However, director of the hospital Dao Quang Minh told the Nhan dan (The People) newspaper that the hospital under-estimated the expenses that it must pay for electricity, water and manpower before the agreement. As a result, the enterprises ended up with more profit.

Similarly, Ha Noi Heart Hospital only takes 40 per cent of the profits, leaving 60 per cent for its enterprise partners. And the division of profits at Ha Dong Hospital with their counterparts is 30 per cent and 70 per cent.

Another problem with equitisation is that many hospitals also make separate privatisation deals to cover the A-grade treatment sometimes available in special sections for patients who can afford it.

This can lead to hospital beds being placed in air-conditioned, upmarket rooms to attract wealthier patients. While this may increase profits, it has also contributed to hospital overcrowding and deprived poorer patients.

Thanh Nhan Hospital has nearly 250 of these special beds, Ha Noi Tumour Hospital has 167 and Ha Noi Hospital for Obstetrics and Gynaecology has 290.

Patients using regular beds must pay VND113,000 ($5.3) per day, but if they use the upmarket ones, they have to pay VND100,000-500,000 ($4.7-23) more.

The municipal health sector expects that by next year, 41 State hospitals will have VND1.7 trillion ($80.9 million) invested in privatisation projects.

However, by last month, only 13 State hospitals in the city had been equitised for a cost of VND170 billion ($8.09 million).

Explaining the reasons for the slow transition, director of the Ha Noi Department of Health Nguyen Khac Hien admitted that there was insufficient guidance from the department over negotiations between hospitals and investors.

He said hospitals found it difficult to ascertain prices for their properties, land and even trademarks, adding that guidance circulars from municipal authorities and the Ministry of Health were unrealistic.

Ngo Thi Doan Thanh, chairman of the Ha Noi People's Council, asked the Ha Noi People's Committee, the Ha Noi Department of Health and the Department of Planning and Investment to check all privatisation projects and decide which projects should continue and which ones should be adjusted.

She said privatisation projects that did not take the care of all patients into account should be abandoned.


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