Private patients a boon for hospitals
(VNS) The introduction of paying patients at public hospitals has improved health-care services by pumping more money into the system. Director of Medical Service Administration Luong Ngoc Khue spoke to the Vietnam News Agency.
All public hospitals in Viet Nam are overloaded so that many patients on health insurance have to share beds while it is said that paying patients only have one or two patients to a room. Sometimes the rooms are empty. Does this lead to discrimination?
The organisation of paying patients in public hospitals follows the Government's policy. This meets the demands of patients and reduces the number who go abroad for healthcare.
Hospital beds for paying patients are not financed from the State budget. The fee is based on the condition of the room. Other fees, such as for medicine, equipment and operations, follow Health Ministry regulations.
State funding for public hospitals at provincial, city and district level nationwide account for 23.2 per cent of their total expenses. At larger, central hospitals in big cities, the figure is just 9.8 per cent. For example, State funding for the Viet Nam National Hospital of Paediatrics last year was just VND62 billion (US$3 million), about 10.7 per cent of the hospital's total expenses of VND582 billion ($27.7 million).
Paying patients' health examinations and treatment are funded by the patients and their families themselves and follow guidance of the ministries of health and finance.
At most hospitals, the difference between paying patients and common beds are facilities such as a TV, telephone and fridge. Healthcare and treatment are the same in both areas.
The number of beds for paying patients at hospitals is just 4.1 per cent across the nation – or more specifically 10.6 per cent at central hospitals, 4.4 per cent at provincial level and 1.9 at district level. Those rates are within World Health Organisation limits of under 30 per cent.
Inspections of some central hospitals show there are no empty beds in paying patient areas. Some patients even have to book weeks in advance for a bed.
Some hospitals offer health check-ups by professors instead of doctors which cost three or four times more than a doctor's check-up. Professors are part of the hospital staff, using the hospital's facilities? Are patients on health insurance cards eligible to be checked by professors?
Professors are highly trained people with the main task of working on difficult illnesses as well as training the next generation of doctors.
In most of hospitals, there are no separate tasks for professors or skilled doctors in paying patient areas. Examination and treatment of all patients must follow procedures laid down by the Health Ministry. Difficult cases get the attention of professors and skilled doctors without discrimination.
Some hospitals are hiring retired professors who are still in good health to help with paying patients. The choice of a professor at a higher fee is up to the patient.
How is the money from paying patients accounted for and distributed? How is transparency between paying patients and common treatment guaranteed?
In all hospitals, the cost of providing paying-patient areas comes from outside sources. The accounting system is transparent and follows Government regulations. The cost for equipment is collected following Health Ministry regulations. The money from a paying patient is the fee for a room, bed or on-demand surgery. — VNS