HA NOI — The price of more than 400 medical services will rise by up to five times later this year. For instance, the cost of a hospital sick bed will rise from US$95 cents to $7.60.
The increases are outlined in a draft circular by the health, finance, labour, invalids and social affairs ministries and the Viet Nam Social Insurance.
In its draft circular last year, the Ministry of Health proposed an increase in the cost of 350 medical services.
When the increases were first suggested two years ago, most members of the public disagreed with them.
Under the new plan, some existing medical services would be split into two, three or more services, said Pham Luong Son, head of the Viet Nam Social Insurance's board on health and social insurance.
For instance, colour ultrasounds will be divided into those for blood, stomach and heart.
According to the draft, the fees for a health check will rise from VND3,000 (US$0.14) to VND20,000 ($0.95) in central hospitals.
Patients will have to pay VND20,000 ($0.95) for a normal sick bed and VND160,000 ($7.60) a day for a first-class bed. At present the cost for a normal sick bed is VND10,000 ($0.47) per day and the cost for a first-class bed is VND80,000 ($4.80).
A patient will have to pay only 70 per cent of a bed fee if the bed is shared with another patient, and only 40 per cent if shared with two other patients. Previously, there was no difference in fees for a bed-sharing arrangement.
The new fees are expected to cost an extra VND6-7 trillion ($285.7-333.3 million) a year, so the Viet Nam Social Insurance proposes to raise social insurance from 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent of monthly salaries.
Son said the fee increase was aimed at improving the quality of medical services, facilities and doctors' diligence.
"The new plan is more practical because it is more detailed and based on hospitals at central, provincial, district and communal levels," he said.
Luu Thi My Thuc, a doctor from the National Hospital for Paediatrics, said that increasing prices was necessary if hospitals were to improve.
For example, she said the present fees did not provide enough funds to prevent bacteria contamination in hospitals, which was always a high 30-40 per cent.
However, many people have their doubts about the promises.
Vu Thi Hang, from Ha Noi's Dong Da District, said she did not believe that the increase would necessarily provide better services and an improvement in the attitude of doctors and nurses.
She said that they could add another burden to the problems of overloading hospitals.
For many years, hospitals, especially those in central areas, have faced big overloading problems.
While the number of patients was increasing by more than 10 per cent a year, the areas for health checkups in hospitals stayed the same.
During epidemics, hospitals can receive up to 2,000 people a day for health checks instead of their normal load of about 400, according to statistics of the Ministry of Health. — VNS