Local public hospitals fail to lure doctors despite support policies

August 03, 2019 - 08:27

Many localities have issued preferential policies in an attempt to attract and retain doctors at local public hospitals. However, the efforts have seemingly been ineffective as the shortages of doctors remains unsolved.


A doctor checks a patient at Đặng Thuỳ Trâm Hospital in central Quảng Ngãi Province. Some departments of the hospital were forced to close due to a serious shortage of doctors. Photo thanhnien.vn

HÀ NỘI Many localities have issued preferential policies in an attempt to attract and retain doctors at local public hospitals. However, the efforts have seemingly been ineffective as the shortages of doctors remain unsolved.

In central Phú Yên Province, a special policy has been announced for newly-graduated doctors.

Doctors with distinction degrees would receive VNĐ250 million (US$10,750) when they start working for public hospitals in the province. Those with good and average academic records would be given VNĐ200 million ($8,600) and VNĐ150 million ($6,450), respectively. 

In addition, young doctors would get an additional sum, which was 1.5 times higher than the basic salaries.

The province also had a plan to keep experienced doctors. They would be given additional sums, between two and four times higher than the basic salaries, depending on their degree titles.

The policies would be valid until 2020.

Nguyễn Thị Mộng Ngọc, director of Phú Yên Province’s Health Department told Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper that the policies had attracted an additional 32 doctors to work for local public hospitals.

This was a record number of doctors applying for public medical facilities. However, it was not enough to solve the serious shortage of doctors in the province, she said.

Figures from the provincial department showed that there were 1.8 doctors per 10,000 people in 1989. 

The rate increased to more than 4.6 doctors per 10,000 in 1999. However, it only increased to 4.7 per 10,000 in 2009 and to 4.8 per 10,000 in 2014.

Phạm Hiếu Vinh, director of Phú Yên General Hospital said the hospital needed 21 doctors, but only managed to hire six.

The hospital had to extend contracts with retired doctors as a temporary solution.

The same situation was reported in central Bình Định and Quảng Ngãi provinces.

Lê Quang Hùng, director of Bình Định Province’s Health Department, said the province needed 300 more doctors, especially those specialised in tuberculosis and mental health, to work at local district-level hospitals.

The rate of doctor density was 6.1 doctors per 10,000 people.

Lê Thái Bình, director of An Nhơn Township’s Health Centre said the centre had asked the provincial department to mobilise 12 more doctors to work at local health clinics for the past several years, but none had come.

Currently, 37 doctors had to treat 350 inpatients, not including 1,000 outpatients each day.

A newly-graduated doctor could earn more than VNĐ 8.3 million ($356) per month at local public hospitals while private hospitals offered them double, he said.

Hùng said the provincial authority had applied many policies such as creating conditions for young doctors to improve their professional skills, improving salaries or supplying accommodation for young doctors. But they didn’t work.

The department had proposed that the provincial People’s Committee change the employment procedures, which would allow the department to recruit doctors without taking civil servant exams.

He said he hoped this favourable policy would attract more doctors.

Since 2013, doctors have received between VNĐ180-250 million ($7,740-10,750) and are eligible for priorities in land purchasing and house rental, as well as additional money, if they came to work for public hospitals in central Quảng Ngãi Province.

The province managed to attract skilled doctors, but they soon quit.

Figures from the provincial department showed that there was a serious shortage of doctors at district-level hospitals in mountainous areas.

In all six mountainous districts, there were only 11 to 15 doctors taking care of between 250-300 patients at each hospital.

For example, Đặng Thuỳ Trâm Hospital in Đức Phổ District could not implement laparoscopic techniques for gynaecological diseases as there weren’t enough doctors. The departments of ophthalmology and otolaryngology were also usually closed for the same reason.

Nguyễn Tuấn Hưng, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s Organisation and Personnel Department said localities must estimate the number of doctors needed in each department at hospitals to avoid the shortage of doctors.

Localities needed to implement policies to attract doctors with long-term commitments to hospitals. This work must be implemented regularly.

Tuấn said the ministry had applied short-term solutions such as programmes bringing young doctors to poor districts, and rotating doctors at provincial-level hospitals to work at those of lower levels. VNS