Pham Duc Muc, former deputy director of the Health Examination Department, spoke with Tuoi tre (Youth) newspaper on his idea for setting up a national council to improve patient safety.
The public has displayed outrage over a series of recent medical accidents. A family of an ill-fated pregnant patient even marched, with her coffin, to the doctor's house. What do you think about these incidents? Are they medical accidents?
What the local press reported, in my opinion, is the only the tip of the iceberg. We have yet to have official studies on this issue.
Many countries have conducted studies on medical accidents. For example, in the US, hospital-acquired infections, a kind of medical accident, account for 5 per cent of the total infections and affect about 1.7 million people per year.
This increases the length of patients' stays in hospitals by 17.5 days and increases the cost of medical treatment.
In Viet Nam, the percentage of hospital-acquired infections is likely to be the same as in other countries.
From your point of view, what would a national council for patient safety – if it is established in the future – do to help reduce medical accidents?
The health sector would announce the number of medical accidents per year, which all hospitals nation-wide must report to the Ministry of Health when such incidents occur, with the support of the council. The council will also help the sector to set up a process to handle these incidents.
As a result, the health sector will publish annual statistics on medical accidents and patients will have better access to information about medical accidents.
Many countries, such as the US, Britain and Australia, have established a council for patient safety. In Asia, Malaysia has set up such a council.
Patient safety is considered a public health issue in these countries, and the number of medical malpractice cases at each hospital is announced each year. Based on this, they suggest measures to reduce such cases and improve the quality of treatment.
According to international statistics, about 30 percent of medical accidents are caused by malpractice committed by medical service providers.
What unsafe incidents do you think often occur at hospitals?
I think that would be vaccinations. A safe injection must meet 14 criteria. If only one of these criteria is violated, the injection is considered unsafe.
A shortage of medical staff contributes to the occurrence of medical accidents. For example, in Ha Noi-based Viet Nam-Germany Hospital, two nurses take care of 80 patients, on average.
How can these problems be solved when such a council as you suggested has not been set up?
A patient will have to experience many steps to receive treatment, including having a check-up, medical testing, having ultra-sound or X-rays, if necessary, and having surgery, when required.
All of these steps have risks that might cause medical accidents, and these incidents may occur with qualified doctors.
Thus, there should be an agency to manage this issue, in which medical staff and patients will discuss the treatment process and patients will be told about side-effects of those drugs they are prescribed as a step to reduce accidents. — VNS