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Rural medical staff need more support

Update: July, 30/2014 - 09:00

HA NOI (VNS) — Village medical workers play an important role in taking care of people's health in poor remote areas, but many want to leave the profession because their wages are too low.

Lo Thi Nhung, 25, has worked as a midwife for three years in Na Sang Commune, Muong Cha District in the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien.

The ethnic Khang practitioner has successfully carried out 20 deliveries at home and consulted on more than 10 difficult deliveries at the district hospital.

However, Nhung has repeatedly asked the Na Sang Commune Medical Station to let her quit the job and work as a rubber worker like other residents in her village, as her wages are low and irregular.

"Every time I proposed this, workers at the medical station persuaded me to continue," said Nhung.

A Ministry of Health circular that took effect in May 2013 entitled all village midwives to regular allowances from the State budget. Each village midwife is supposed to receive a monthly allowance that is one-third to one-fifth of the minimum wage set by the State. The poorer the area the village midwives work in, the more they are paid. Current allowances range from VND300,000-500,000 (US$14-$23) a month.

Before October 2013, Nhung was paid only VND50,000 (US$2.3) per month. Now, her wages have been raised to VND200,000 ($9.5) per month.

The scant allowance belies the difficulty of Nhung's work.

"Local residents' houses are far from each other. Many times they call me at night when their relatives have a home birth and I have to go to their houses in a hurry," said Nhung. "I want to quit the job, but the State trained me to help residents in my village and I do not have the heart to desert them."

Lateness in paying village medical workers' wages is also common. Trieu Van Nay, who has worked as a village medical worker for four years in Bao Lam District in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bang, is supposed to receive $23 per month. However, in actuality he is paid every three months, sometimes every six months, he said.

Director of the Dien Bien Department of Health Trieu Dinh Thanh told Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) that it was often impossible to pay workers on time because it was hard for the province to gather enough funds to pay the State-dictated wages. Moreover, the province still lacked funds to pay village midwives, so they still received the old allowances. — VNS

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