HCM CITY — Ministry of Health Circular No 15, issued late last year but effective this month, forbids hospitals from operating more than one pharmacy, and many hospital pharmacies in HCM City are already reporting that they are being swamped with work and unable to keep up with patient needs.
|A woman buys drugs at a pharmacy in District 3. Many people are being forced to buy medicines at private pharmacies outside of hospitals since a new regulation has limited hospitals to only one pharmacy. — VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Vy
The HCM City Traumatology and Orthopaedic Hospital, for instance, used to operate two pharmacies which served about 1,500 people per day. However, the hospital was required to close one of the two facilities, leaving the remaining store so crowded that nany patients are going off-site to buy medicine from pharmacies nearby the hospital.
Tran Thi Hai, from HCM City's District 8, said she was required to wait three hours before getting a prescription filled and ended up buying medicines in a private drugstore at cheaper prices than in the hospital.
"What I worry about is whether the medicines I bought were good or not," Hai said.
At the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, patients found themselves in wretched condition as some specialised medicines they needed were not available in private pharmacies outside the hospital.
The deputy director of the Ministry of Health's legislative department, Nguyen Huy Quang, said that the ministry has required each hospital only operate one pharmacy so that the hospital can more effectively manage the quality of the facilities and the ministry can better inspect them.
"Some hospitals have been found to be in collusion with distributors to increase medicine prices by 25-30 per cent," Quang said. "If each hospital has multiple pharmacies, it becomes difficult and time-consuming to control them all."
Circular No 15 regulates that each hospital drugstore must meet the standards of Good Pharmacy Practices (GPP) and be managed directly by the head of the hospital's pharmaceutical department, noted HCM City Department of Health deputy director Phan Van Bau.
Some hospitals in the city had proposed that they should be allowed to operate drugstores in kiosks, staff by qualified pharmacists, said Bau.
"The department has submitted the proposals to the Ministry of Health, but the ministry continues to insist that all hospitals in the country strictly adhere to the circular," he said.
The ministry, meanwhile, has offered no measure to help hospitals' reducing the impact on overcrowded drugstores, he added.
Although the circular has been applied nationally, hospitals in Ha Noi seem to be less affected.
Nguyen Hoang Thanh, a resident of Giai Phong Street who often buy medicine at the Bach Mai Hospital pharmacy, said that she has had to queue for about 5-10 minutes to buy medicines, but it has not bothered her.
"I'm ready to wait even longer as I believe in the quality of the medicines being sold by the hospital," she said. — VNS