Last Week, Viet Nam News asked its readers whether they had their health or illness checked and treated at a public hospital in Viet Nam on the occasion of the Vietnamese Doctors' Day, February 27. The readers are welcome to share their experience, assessment of the medical service quality, as well as recommendations for the health sector's improved practice.
Here are some of the readers' comments:
Juergen Eichhorn, German, Hai Duong City
I have been in Viet Nam since 2005. Sure the health system has improved in the last few years, but the conditions in hospitals/clinics in some places are still poor.
The main problem is that there aren't enough toilettes and they are also quite dirty. The rooms are full of relatives and there is now way to sleep or rest. The only chance might be in a single room, but no nurse will check on you and your family must care for and feed you.
In areas like Hai Duong or other provinces you cannot find a working emergency system. In case of an accident you will be "thrown" into a police pick-up or packed on a motorbike which could cause additional injuries.
There are some "ambulances" but they are only equipped with a bed … nothing else. The staff in the "ambulance" has almost no idea about first-aid. We all hope that this will change soon.
I take care of many handicapped children in our area and at the moment we are planning to start first-aid classes in Hai Duong. These simple things should be required in order to get a drivers license—I'm sure that it will save a lot of human lives.
I've noticed that children get no regular checkups with their doctors. While kids must go and get immunised regularly, the "nurses" only check the temperature, height and weight of the kids. No basic examinations are done as in other countries.
I have seen it happen many times, children are given very strong antibiotics because of a simple cold. In the long run, this will make them resistant to this kind of medicine and cause big problems in the future. If you bring your kid to the doctor you will probably end up with 5 to 10 different medicines. I found out that many of the products are not suitable for children under 12 years (our daughter is 4 years old).
Good hospitals are very expensive, but it is worth going there. A good experience I've had is at Family Medical Practice in Ha Noi. Something like that does not exist in Hai Duong City.
Kindergarten teacher Joyce Dizon, Filipino-Spanish, Ha Noi
I remember going to Ha Noi Medical University Hospital upon the recommendation of a friend who went to the International Department. I had a series of tests and my blood pressure checked because I was suffering from hypertension. The International Dept recommended me to a heart doctor on the ground floor. I had to wait only a few minutes for my turn —I guess I was prioritised because I came from the 3rd floor— and I was assisted by a nurse.
After seeing the results of my tests, he gave me some medicines that I needed to buy to lower my blood pressure. Being in a family with a history of hypertension, I was alarmed. But because I've had a medical background, I could carefully check what medicines the doctor gave me.
When I got home, I checked the prescribed medicine on the internet. One of them was for paranoia. Why would I be given such if my blood pressure was shooting up? Paranoid of having hypertension? Weirdest thing I have ever heard. What is going to happen to all those patients who had been given the wrong medicine and don't have the presence of mind to check it before buying? What if that patient has no medical background?
I think that's what you get for the fee that you pay, a cheap, poor quality service and an inexperienced doctor.
Pham Quang Vinh, Ha Noi
I have gone to public clinics and hospitals for check-ups and treatment several times. Each occasion has been another eye-opener as I see how fast medical institutions seem to adapt to new advances and developments, especially in terms of equipment and reception services.
At most of them, there are receptionists standing the gate or staircase landings, readily prepared to lead patients to the right place for examinations, tests, consultations or buying drugs. This is convenient as many of the public hospitals have different buildings spread out across large areas.
It takes time for first-comers to find out where they have to go to register and get an appointment with a physician, then where to get necessary tests done, and then how to find the physician again for a consultation before leaving for the pharmacy.
Medical equipment at clinics and hospitals seem to be State-of-the-art, which not only facilitates the examination and testing process, but also produces more reliable results in a shorter time.
However, there is one thing that has not been upgraded enough – the bathroom for collecting body liquids (pee, water or sperm). These bathrooms are everywhere in Viet Nam, following the Western style with one bowl, a sink and urinals.
There is nothing to complain about it if designed for the home, but it turns out to not be so convenient for people collecting their body liquids. Worse, they are often located far from the place that collects it. Imagine on a crowded day, the patient holding the vial must navigate carefully through a long stream of people so that it cannot spill out. Someone needs to come up with something that can address this inconvenience.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
I have been to the hospital, eye clinic and dentist in Sai Gon and in Ha Noi. My Sai Gon doctor friend went with me. The staff were efficient, there was a separate line for foreigners and surprisingly each doctor was able to speak to me directly in decent English. I'm not easily impressed.
The Ha Noi eye hospital wanted to charge me three times what I thought it should be and I refused. I found a clinic and argued the price. A Singapore educated Vietnamese woman came in to help me. The optometrist overheard and ordered me to be billed with a random Vietnamese name, paying local price. He spoke Latin/English and was competent.
I have read many clips in Viet Nam News about kids dying or being injected with the wrong vaccine, etcetera. My teaching assistant tells me which places she pays bribes to get better service. A hospital is on that list.
My eye doctor told me how many cataract surgeries he performs each day and how many hours he works each week. I think he is Superman and Canada should head-hunt him! My dentist did not speak English but installed a crown for 1/10th the cost back home.
There is always room for improvement, quality control and accountability. Canada's universal health care is costly with a bloated bureaucracy. There are long wait lists. Perhaps they should visit Sai Gon and Ha Noi to learn a few things.
Bach Thanh Phuong, Ha Noi
In my opinion, many Vietnamese all over the country have to deal with problems caused by the public health system at least once or twice in their lives.
I had a very bad daydream about the issue some days ago during the Tet holiday. Because I had to travel a lot in cold and rainy weather for the holidays, I developed a fever and cough for several days.
I have health insurance covered by my company, but it did not help me much when I went to the hospital.
After checking me out for a while, the doctor in charge told me, "It is ok, you have a simple sore throat." He then ordered some medicines to take for five days. I carefully took the pills and tablets as ordered but I still had problems with a reoccurring cough and fever.
On the sixth day, I returned to the hospital and I met that doctor again. He told me that my health conditions seemed very bad but it was Tet holiday and my health insurance would not cover all the medicines that he wanted to order, so he advised me to buy the medicines for myself.
The doctor said that I should go to a certain pharmacy and tell them that he sent me since other pharmacies are mostly closed during the holiday.
I did all what he told me but I was surprised by the amount of money I had to pay. It cost three times than its price on other price lists I've seen.
Fortunately, however, my illness ended three days after taking the medicine. — VNS