A health worker takes COVID-19 testing sample in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo Thành Đạt
HÀ NỘI — Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has asked the health sector to continue using drastic measures to tackle COVID-19 this year, particularly ahead of the Tet (Lunar New Year) celebrations and other important events.
At the national health conference held in Hà Nội yesterday, PM Phúc applauded the health sector for its achievements in the last year as well as its contributions to the country’s success in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, with low infections and deaths recorded.
The Vietnamese Government leader also asked the sector to improve its capacity and competence to better respond to emergency situations and other diseases, including non communicable diseases that account for about 70 per cent of disease burdens and 73 per cent of fatalities in Việt Nam.
PM Phúc said as 98 million personal health records nationwide had been documented, it was expected that all Vietnamese people would receive proper medical consultation, examination and treatment when they need it.
The PM also asked for continued improvement of healthcare service quality and boosting telemedicine.
Hospitals and healthcare institutes must speed up mutual recognition of test results to reduce annoyance for patients when re-taking tests as well as to avoid doctors ordering too many tests.
“The Government is determined to curb the patient overload at hospitals, improve healthcare services in line with a proper salary mechanism, medical costs and health insurance,” he said, asking the health ministry to implement the roadmap on adjusting medical costs to correctly include relevant costs like labour, facilities or insurance.
The ministry was asked to study and recommend new public health insurance premiums so the benefits of health insurance participants would be better ensured and the health insurance fund would be better managed and used.
PM Phúc said that Government and people could not accept a situation in which patients were unclear about medical costs they had to pay.
“It’s time for the health sector to increase transparency in medical costs, prices of medicine, medical materials or equipment,” he said, asking for further application of information technology in healthcare institutes nationwide.
Speaking at the conference, Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long said Việt Nam’s health sector fulfilled tasks assigned by the National Assembly and Government last year and the last four years, making it one of the leading forces that made crucial contributions to the country’s success in fighting COVID-19.
Under the strategy of "preventing, detecting, isolating, suppressing and treating", Việt Nam has quarantined more than 730,000 people, provided testing for 1.7 million people and deployed 1,608 border posts with nearly 10,000 staff stationed at the border from the 2020 Tết festival up to now.
Việt Nam was one of the first four countries to isolate the new strain of coronavirus and in a short time, it produced ventilators and diagnostic biologicals as well as started human trials of locally-made COVID-19 vaccines.
As of Wednesday morning, Viet Nam recorded a total of 1,504 COVID-19 patients, with one of the lowest rates of infection per million people in the world. Apart from COVID-19, other diseases that hit last year including diphtheria in Central Highland provinces and Whitmore's disease in central provinces were effectively controlled.
Last year was the 12th year Việt Nam saw a reduction in the number of new HIV infections, the number of HIV cases shifting to AIDS and the number of deaths relating to AIDS.
Vietnamese people’s physical fitness also improved in 2020, with Vietnamese boys and girls at an average height of 168.1cm and 156.2cm, up 3.7cm and 2.6cm, respectively, compared with 2009.
Last year, the average life expectancy in Việt Nam was 73.7 years, up 0.1 years of age compared to 2019.
Medicine supplying networks cover the country widely with one pharmacy for every 1,600 people. Local vaccine producers now can supply 10 out of 11 vaccines that are used in the country’s expanded vaccinations programme which offers free vaccines for children.
By the end of last year, 90.85 per cent of Việt Nam’s population participated in public health insurance. The percentage is expected to increase to 91 per cent this year.
The country also completed its health management system with 98 million personal health record files. About 10,600 commune healthcare centres nationwide could connect and access the database.
Information on more than 60,000 types of medicine, 17,000 items of medical equipment and materials, nearly 100,000 bidding results and medical services of more than 1,400 medical institutes were posted on the health ministry’s Medical Public Portal.
Work still to be done
Minister Long said the fight against pandemic had yet to end, particularly as new coronavirus strains had been detected, so higher determination from the whole country was needed.
“Protecting people for a safe healthy new year celebration, for our life to return to normal is the strongest desire and highest goal of health sector,” he said.
Long said that in addition to increased health insurance coverage, the ministry would apply artificial intelligence in granting pharmacy/food safety licences from March 2021 and launch online appointments nationwide since July.
Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Resident Representative, said the COVID-19 pandemic tested national, regional and global health systems as well as social and economic responses and co-operation throughout the entire world.
“Việt Nam has emerged as a leading country in containing the pandemic and one of the few countries to record positive economic growth in 2020. The twin goals of COVID containment and economic growth is an achievement not many countries globally can count at this time,” she said.
She said that UNDP, UN system and other development partners would continue supporting Việt Nam’s sustainable development, including on three key transformational areas – ensuring that no one is left behind in COVID-19 recovery and sustainable development in the new normal, promoting digital transformation of the health sector and addressing the nexus between health, climate and environment. — VNS