HA NOI (VNS) — The Ministry of Health has urged the General Department of Viet Nam Customs to tighten inspections and supervision of medical devices imported into Viet Nam.
The instruction was made after customs police in Ha Noi discovered two cases of refurbished medical devices which had been declared as new in customs declaration forms and sold to hospitals in the city.
Last Saturday, the department's Anti-Smuggling Investigation Department and customs officials at Noi Bai International Airport seized a consignment of medical equipment imported from France.
They explained that the machines were secondhand although the importer, A.N.N.A Medical Equipment Trading and Manufacturing Co Ltd based on Tran Duy Hung street, said they were new.
Last month, Bao Tran Medical Equipment Co Ltd, which is also located on Tran Duy Hung street, was caught importing out-of-date machines from Japan, China and Mexico to sell to a company that supplies medical equipment to hospitals in HCM City. The company had previously imported seven consignments of medical devices successfully.
Nguyen Minh Tuan, head of the ministry's Department of Medical Devices, said that importing out-of-date medical equipment was a serious crime that directly affected patients.
All devices imported to Viet Nam were required to be new, and importers needed a licence to operate in the field, he said, adding that the two companies had broken the law and should be strictly punished.
Speaking at a conference yesterday, Professor Hoang Van Son from the Viet Nam Association of Private Medical Practices said medical equipment be capable of catching up with the complicated development of diseases, and some devices became obsolete in less than two years.
The healthcare industry has to import 80 per cent of medical equipment because the country only has 50 medical equipment manufacturers to serve nearly 1,000 hospitals and healthcare centres nationwide.
However, regulations remain loose. With an investment capital of just VND200 million (US$9,400), an enterprise could easily import used or refurbished machines to make a profit.
Bui Thi Hiep , chairwoman of the Ha Noi Medical Association, said except for central hospitals, most healthcare centres were using out-of-date medical devices for check-ups and treatment.
For example, in Ha Noi, 85 out of 97 healthcare centres were reported to have purchased or hire old equipment.
According to experts, a legal base is needed to tighten control over medical products which stipulated the responsibilities of those involved.
The ministry should also build a centre in charge of supervising the quality of foreign-made medical equipment before it's imported into Viet Nam.
The ministry has completed a draft decree to manage medical equipment in the country which has been released for public feedback before it is submitted for approval. — VNS