HCM CITY (VNS)— All hospitals with 500 beds and more will be required to set up a counselling centre under a draft decree issued by the Ministry of Health.
Dr Nguyen Van Chau, the ministry's Department of Treatment and Examination Management, told a workshop in HCM City yesterday that the centres would offer psychological support, provide information and guidance on diagnosis and treatment and charitable assistance to the poor.
They would also help patients continue treatment in their hometown by apprising them about health care facilities available there, he said.
The centres would be manned by doctors, nurses and social workers. Hospitals with less than 500 beds are required to have counsellors on their staff.
Vu Thi Minh Hanh, deputy head of the Health Strategy and Policy Institute, said it was important to have a counselling centre to reduce the pressure on doctors and nurses and improve the quality of health care.
She said a survey of 26 hospitals in six provinces and cities done by her and her colleague found 16 of them appreciate the importance of such centres and think they would help improve the healthcare work.
All of the hospitals are overloaded, and half of them also have not got the human resources they are eligible for.
So doctors and nurses spend just above 10 minutes with each patient instead of the 20 prescribed by the ministry, according to Hanh.
Besides examination and treatment, patients and their families also need other services like guidance and psychological support, she said, and the counselling centre would offer them.
At the 26 hospitals surveyed, 79 per cent of the staff said the counselling centres are essential, she said.
They considered counsellors as doctors' "right hands" by providing psychological support for patients and their families as well as to other vulnerable people like drug addicts, people with HIV/AIDS, the homeless, and victims of domestic violence, she said.
Dr Do Hong Ngoc of Pham Ngoc Thach Medical University said if medical social workers are trained in basic medicine, they can identify illnesses and collaborate with doctors and nurses in planning patients' treatment.
They can explain to patients — instead of doctors – about the different treatment methods and policies such as health insurance, and the epidemiology of diseases including social and environmental risk factors to patients and their families.
They can also help with post-hospitalisation needs by arranging services at other facilities or at home, he added.
Hanh said nearly 780 medical social workers are estimated to be needed at 42 central hospitals and 348 provincial hospitals.
At the district level, a further 3,000 are needed at 615 hospitals nation-wide, she added. — VNS