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Government issues bonds to improve healthcare

Update: January, 20/2008 - 00:00

Government issues bonds to improve healthcare

(21-01-2008)

The Health Ministry hopes to raise nearly US$250 million to boost local and provincial hospitals.

by Thanh Hai

Visitors unable to squeeze into the waiting room queue outside Ha Noi’s National Obstetrics Hospital. The Health Ministry’s plan to issue health bonds is expected to reduce patient overload at central hospitals. — VNS Photo Viet Thanh

HA NOI — The Government of Viet Nam and the Ministry of Health (MoH) would issue health bonds in order to mobilise capital for healthcare sector investment in 2008, said Deputy Minister of MoH Nguyen Thi Xuyen.

The MoH aims to raise an estimated VND3-4,000 billion (US$187 – 250 million) from bond sales.

"The mobilisation of capital, hopefully, will be spent on both local and provincial hospitals at once to reduce patient overload," said Xuyen.

According to a recent survey conducted by the MoH and the World Health Organisation, about 2 million patients or 40 per cent of all patients, go straight to central hospitals instead of to district or provincial hospitals for health check-ups and treatment. Bach Mai Hospital, Cancer Hospital K and Viet Duc (Viet Nam - Germany) Hospital are presently on the list of overloaded hospitals, the three exceeding total bed capacity by over 200 per cent.

According to professor Nguyen Ba Duc, the director of Cancer Hospital K, his institution was treating a rate of 285 per cent of their capacity and could not find a way to meet the needs of cancer patients without mobilising capital from the private sector.

From private sources, Hospital K mobilised nearly $5 million to equip medical facilities for cancer treatment in 2007. In 2008, the hospital expects to mobilise over $5.3 million more to further modernise facilities and meet patient demand.

Two years since the Government’s healthcare socialisation policy began, hospitals have mobilised more than VND2,000 billion (over $125 million) for new facilities. The number is equal to 10 per cent of the total 2007 State budget for the healthcare sector, according to MoH statistics.

Lack of professionalism, facilities and staff at the commune and district and even provincial levels had led to many patients heading straight to central hospitals, Xuyen said.

The survey says that around 3 per cent of total commune medical stations (equivalent to more than 300 stations) cannot provide adequate healthcare due to sub-par facilities. Half of village and hamlet health staffs are unqualified. In mountainous and remote areas, qualified staff are even rarer, comprising between 28 to 41 per cent of the work force.

Presently, the health care system of Viet Nam is divided into 4 levels: commune, district, provincial and central. The highest level includes general hospitals and speciality hospitals in big cities like Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang. The second highest level includes provincial hospitals that meet all basic professional health treatment requirements.

"Regional clinics, ministry and sector hospitals, maternity hospitals and particularly remote district hospitals have very low bed occupancy (under 70 per cent)," according to the survey.

According to the MoH statistics, there are few doctors willing to work in remote or mountainous areas in the northwest, central Highlands and Cuu Long Delta. The doctor patient ratio is 6:10,000. These doctors account for 20 per cent of the total healthcare human resources. In some areas the percentage is slightly higher: the northern Delta area at 22.6 per cent and the southeast at 20.5 per cent. In some other places the percentages are worse: the northwest at 12.6 per cent and the northern central provinces at 17.6 per cent.

With capital mobilised from health bonds, the MoH will invest in and upgrade both human resources and facilities for provincial hospitals. Commune medical stations, especially in mountainous and remote areas, will be given priority to upgrade infrastructure and facilities. Then, the MoH will issue specific regulations for changes at all levels.

Xuyen said that central hospitals would be planned and built with extended units in the suburbs of Ha Noi in 2008, with priority given to large and technical projects.

The MoH also planned to send doctors overseas for training and push private hospital development to decrease pressure on central hospitals.

"We expect to begin selling health bonds by the beginning of the second quarter this year. Using this plan, we hope to remedy the problem of lack of hospital beds for treatment by 2010," said Xuyen. — VNS

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