CA MAU — Commune-level health clinics in the southern province of Ca Mau are struggling with a severe lack of pharmacists.
Director of the provincial Department of Health, Huynh Trung Kien, said the shortage of pharmacists was due to low pay and poor support policies for staff.
"Most students, after graduating from pharmaceutical universities and colleges, prefer to stay in big cities and provinces where they can earn a higher income," he said.
The province needs about 200 pharmacists to work at commune level health clinics during the 2010-15 period, but so far only 15 have been recruited, said Kien.
Pharmacists are offered an annual salary of VND12 million (US$570) if they sign a contract for 10 years.
"Not many people want to work in the province because the pay is not attractive enough and procedures to receive the full allowance are extremely complicated," said Kien.
Nguyen Thi Xiem, who has worked as a pharmacist for two years, said she did not want to work in commune level clinics as the salary was only VND1 million ($47) per month, which was not enough to survive on.
"I want to work at a private drugstore where I can have a higher income," she said.
Nguyen Thu Trang, who comes from the southern city of Can Tho and is a student at the Ha Noi Medical University, said that when she graduated she did not want to work at a commune level clinic either.
"Working at a provincial hospital or as a medical representative in a big city can bring me about VND4-5 million ($190-240) per month," she said.
In addition, finding suitable accommodation in places such as Ca Mau Province was difficult, said Trang, as health clinics did not have boarding houses for staff and renting accommodation was very expensive.
To attract more pharmacists, the province should have more preferential policies, for example, co-ordinating with pharmaceutical universities to organise training courses for pharmacists to advance their skills and gain work experience.
Meanwhile, Kien said that the province planned to use part of the budget to ensure an allowance of VND30-50 million ($1,430-2,380) for each medical graduate who agrees to work in the province.
In addition, they will be allowed to sign 5-year contracts in stead of 10-year contracts.
The province will also build accommodation for pharmacists with preferential prices, said Kien. — VNS