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Lai Chau suffers from serious lack of doctors

Update: June, 04/2014 - 08:57
The doctors have moved from Lai Chau Province to work in urban areas during the past three years. — Photo baolaichau

LAI CHAU (VNS) — The northern province of Lai Chau is facing a serious doctor shortage in spite of numerous efforts made by authorities to attract more health professionals to the remote area.

Incentives have been offered to urban-based doctors, while the VND415 billion (US$19.7 million) Lai Chau General Hospital, considered the most modern provincial hospital in the northern mountainous area, has been built.

The hospital has 300 beds for in-patients and has the capacity to provide health checks to 500 patients per day. But only 30 of the hospital's 70 workers are doctors, with only 8 working in the paediatrics ward. The hospital's anaesthetic ward has two doctors among its 26 staff.

Do Thi Duong, a 27-year-old doctor in the anaesthetic ward, has been forced to work continuously without days off. Duong even rented a house closer to the hospital, to save time travelling from Lai Chau City.

"Once the hospital received too many patients that needed surgery, so I stayed awake for three consecutive nights," said Duong.

On average the ward helps about 10 patients per day. At the moment, Duong is the only doctor in the ward because the other doctor is at a training course.

During the past 10 years, the province has made a concerted policy push to attract more doctors, but only one or two come to work in the province each year. This is a far cry from the 300 doctors the province needs to meet demand.

Meanwhile, the doctor shortage has forced hospital management boards to rotate responsibility for conducting health examinations. The province has also had to cope with a massive brain-drain, with many district-level doctors seeking positions at upper-level hospitals after their training.

More than 20 doctors have moved from Lai Chau Province to work in urban areas during the past three years.

Many doctors forego certificates, qualifications, social and health insurance and additional allowances to relocate.

Doctor Do Quy Nhat, who previously worked at the Sin Ho District Medical Station, is among many who relocated to more populous areas and did not return, despite that he would have been promoted to lead a clinic in Sin Ho District.

Do Cong Danh graduated from Thai Binh Medical University and worked at the Sin Ho District Medical Station from 2006. After being assigned to advanced training in 2008, he left the station in 2013.

Danh even changed his phone number so he couldn't be contacted.

Director of the Lai Chau Department of Health Nguyen Cong Huan said that low incomes and allowances were the main reason behind doctors becoming disillusioned working in the province.

To stem further losses, the department has established regulations that doctors must work in the province for at least five years after completing their studies, while the province has also looked to assert its right to manage their qualifications.

The province will assign children of ethnic minorities in the province in an attempt to foster local talent. Meanwhile, the province has also said it will support doctors with extra money and accommodation to reduce the strain. — VNS

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