Expensive medical devices gather dust in health care facilities

May, 06/2020 - 08:58

Most of the equipment was broken or being repaired when the survey was conducted.


Doctors working with SARS-CoV 2 testing machines in a hospital of Quảng Trị Province. Photo tuoitre.vn


HÀ NỘI ­– Many medical devices worth hundreds of billions of đồng in health facilities have not been used for years, Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper has reported.

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health on the use of medical devices in eight provinces, many of 99 medical devices worth VNĐ140 billion (US$6 million) had been kept in storage for up to three years due to a lack of staff able to operate them.

The survey found many of them were not needed in their health care facility such as high-frequency and digital X-ray machines, arthroscopy machines, patient monitor machines and film printers imported from the US, UK and Japan.

Most of the equipment was broken or being repaired when the survey was conducted.

The devices were bought using the State budget and official development assistant (ODA) fund.

Uneven prices

The price of medical equipment has become a hot-button issue after the director and some employees of the Hà Nội Centre for Disease Control were accused of inflating the price of COVID-19 test machines to embezzle funds.

There is currently no mechanism for monitoring prices of medical equipment, potentially leading to uneven prices for equipment in different provinces and hospitals.

For example, Thái Bình Province bought a COVID-19 real-time PCR testing machine branded Cobas 4800 for VNĐ6.45 billion (US$275,000), while Ninh Bình Province spent VNĐ5.9 billion (US$250,000).

A similar testing machine branded Qiagen was bought for VNĐ8.4 billion, VNĐ7 billion and VNĐ7.2 billion by Quảng Ninh Province, Hà Nội and Quảng Nam Province, respectively.

Hà Nội’s Việt Đức Hospital bought needles for transfusion for VNĐ945 each while HCM City’s Chợ Rẫy hospital bought it at price of VNĐ7,350, nearly eight times higher.

In a written response to the audit agency about management and procurement of medical equipment and supplies of 15 health care facilities, the Ministry of Health said some goods were the same type but their technical parameters were different.

Both types of needles Việt Đức and Chợ Rẫy hospital bought were for transfusion but they had different prices because of their different uses.

The needles Việt Đức Hospital bought were disposable while the needles bought by Chợ Rẫy Hospital were covered by a silicone layer which helps reduce vascular lesions. The needles were able to be reused many times, a representative of the ministry told the paper.

Nguyễn Minh Tuấn, director of Medical Equipment Department told the paper the ministry had requested health care facilities post prices of bid winning for medical devices and supplies on the ministry’s website.

“In the future, the units must send notices on purchased equipment including prices, brand names, configuration, categories and technical parameters which would be data for other units to compare and use as references for bidding,” said Tuấn.

The requirements would help procurement of medical equipment be more transparent and reduce public concern, he added. – VNS