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Hotline helps to restore public trust in local healthcare sector

Update: January, 21/2015 - 09:26
In 2014, the province that registered the highest number of calls to the hotline was Ha Noi with 1,978 calls, followed by HCM City with 786 calls and Thanh Hoa with 206 calls. — Photo nld

HA NOI (VNS) — After last year's success, the health sector plans to continue its patient feedback hotline in 2015 and will beef up staff to ensure that claims are tackled 24/7.

The hotline received positive comments as well as complaints in 2014, according to Nguyen Xuan Truong, chief of the Health Ministry's Office. In the first three months of 2014, it received only three compliments but by November, it had received 21, proving its effectiveness, said Truong.

In 2014, the province that registered the highest number of calls to the hotline was Ha Noi with 1,978 calls, followed by HCM City with 786 calls and Thanh Hoa with 206 calls.

In Ha Noi, the Viet Nam National Hospital of Pediatrics topped all hospitals with 121 calls, followed by Bach Mai Hospital with 93 calls and the Viet Nam National Cancer Hospital with 87 calls.

In HCM City, Cho Ray Hospital received the most hotline calls and in the central region, Hue Central Hospital took the lead with 56 calls.

"Patients asked about everything from insurance policy and consulting services to the long wait time. About 80 per cent of the questions, which averaged 10 per day, sought advice about health conditions," said Le Tien Ngai, director of the Training Department of the Viet Nam National Hospital of Pediatrics, where six or seven members of the hospital's director board and department directors take calls. Ngai and his colleagues also use the hotline to inform people on new policies such as the increased hospital fee.

In 2014, the health sector received 98,760 calls through its hotlines. However, only 36 per cent conveyed the right content whilst 64 per cent referred the problems to the wrong place. At Ngai's hospital, only 20 per cent of calls are classified as "having appropriate content" for the hotline.

While there were fewer complaints about the procedure for medicinal examination and treatment, many complaints remained about the health staff's attitudes towards patients.

Moreover, many patients failed to call the hotline despite suffering miserable experiences because they did not expect anything to change.

Ha Noi resident Tran Xuan Thang, 40, said that well-known State-owned hospitals such as Bach Mai, Thanh Nhan, 108 were "always overcrowded" and undergoing a consultation and testing took the whole day.

Thang said one of his old classmates went to Bach Mai Hospital for a general health check and had to wait in a long queue for hours before finally reaching the receptionist, who refused to place him with any consulting doctor unless he could say what part of the body he would like to have examined. Failing to meet the receptionist's request, the man resorted to running from department to department to have all the tests done. The total cost he incurred amounted to a sum much larger than he had expected.

This is the kind of complain that the hotline aims to resolve. Truong said that the ministry had been highly responsive to urgent requests and resolved complaints swiftly. The ministry took prompt action after receiving a call via the hotline accusing health workers at central An Giang Hospital of negligence for abandoning a pregnant woman who was in delivery to turn to another who gave bribes to them, thus causing the death of the baby, who should have been transferred quickly to another hospital. After being informed, the Department of Health in An Giang Province had the hospital set up a professional council to review the process of examination and treatment. As a result, a doctor was suspended from operating for three months, a midwife was reprimanded and an assistant doctor was fired.

The most common ways to discipline staff were reprimands and bonus cuts. In serious cases involving legal violations, hospitals took disciplinary action such as firing and demoting workers. Last year 6,807 health workers were warned, 137 were reprimanded, 116 had their bonuses cut, 18 were transferred to other places of work, six were demoted and four were fired. — VNS

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