Perfecting the legal framework to remove difficulties for medical equipment bidding

March 20, 2023 - 08:36
Phạm Khánh Phong Lan, a member of the HCM City Delegation of National Assembly Deputies, told Lao Động (Labour) online newspaper that there should have long-term policies to address the issue. 


Phạm Khánh Phong Lan, a member of the HCM City Delegation of National Assembly Deputies. Photo

The Government Resolution No. 30 and Decree No. 07, which were issued a few days ago, are considered lifebuoys for public medical facilities to mitigate the bottlenecks in the procurement and bidding for drugs and medical equipment. Phạm Khánh Phong Lan, a member of the HCM City Delegation of National Assembly Deputies, told Lao Động (Labour) newspaper that there should be long-term policies to address the issue.  

The Government has just issued Resolution 30 and Decree 07 to mitigate a number of issues over shortages of crucial medical supplies for the health sector. What are your opinions on this matter?

I think these two documents have been issued to immediately and temporarily remove bottlenecks in medical equipment purchasing.

Decree 07 mainly regulates the management of medical equipment. However, this decree does not mention the bidding process, which has many problems that need to be solved.

I believe there are problems with medical equipment for public medical facilities.

The first problem is finance. Obviously, the State's budget for investment in medical equipment is very limited. Public investment in hospitals has remained low compared to actual needs and hospitals must mobilise other sources to maintain their operation. The two legal documents have not yet mentioned these issues and the problem here is financial mechanisms.

The second problem is about procedures and management which depends on circulation permits and import permits. After the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical devices do not have storage numbers or import licenses.

There are private businesses that have medical devices stuck at the port because they are not able to clear customs due to legal procedures.

There are decrees for medical equipment asking for extensions each year. We do not yet have proper management methods.

Many medical units are still confused about the sustainability of these legal documents. What are your comments about this issue?

We all know that as it is regulated, public units have to organise bidding if they want to purchase medical equipment. According to the regulations on bidding, medical equipment is like all other items and it’s compulsory to have three price quotes from suppliers.

This regulation is somewhat impractical. There are devices that can be manufactured and supplied by only one supplier as they can ensure technical compatibility and copyright that cannot be obtained by others. Thus, it is impossible to have three quotes as required.

Resolution 30 addressed these issues and tried to solve them. According to the new resolution, there are only one to two quotes required to build the bid package pricing, instead of three in the past.

I think that Decree 07 and Resolution 30 have established the actual requirements. It’s better late than never.

However, it is only a temporary solution. The resolution is still a resolution and it’s not the Law on Bidding.

What suggestions do you have to limit the risks and errors for public agencies to implement Resolution 30 and Decree 07?

I think it is necessary for the National Assembly to have specific regulations for medical equipment and drugs in the Law of Bidding because this field is unique and has a great impact on society. This can’t be treated as other goods such as steel or cement that conduct public bidding in a normal way.

The law must have a section dedicated to this issue.

In terms of the policy, bidding is not the only way to purchase equipment, but we can promote other methods. We can establish a national centre for bidding, which includes auditing and inspecting activities to avoid causing hesitation for medical units when implementing bidding.

What do you think about the country’s current bidding?

During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply chain was disrupted in both our country and the world. The problems of inadequate mechanisms in bidding for equipment procurement had existed for many years, but the medical units were still trying to manage it, but they could no longer do it after the pandemic.

Doctors can’t give treatment to patients without medical equipment no matter how large hospitals are.

Many countries in the world do not pay much attention to bidding, but to an autonomous mechanism instead. Governments are obliged to invest in the health sector, including maintaining a system of public hospitals to take care of poor people. They are very transparent in their activities to ensure the budget and have the autonomy of personnel in hospitals.

In Việt Nam, we still follow the salary level regulations and there are too many procedures and mechanisms, which easily generate corruption. – VNS