by Khanh Van
Going to hospitals for health check-ups or treatment has never left me feel comfortable. It is not because I am afraid of getting an injection, but of receiving a dressing-down from doctors.
Still on my mind is the last time I went to a public hospital for health check-up. Entering the doctor's room, I sat down and waited for her instructions. She suddenly told me in a heavy voice: "Come on, roll up your shirt. Have you ever had a medical check-up? Do you want a check or not?". Not one smile flickered on her face during the whole examination.
Now to my surprise and delight, I find that the Ha Noi-based National Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion has become the first hospital to ask medical workers to smile at patients and say "thank you".
"I was really moved. This is the first time in my life I was exposed to a positive attitude when having a health check-up," said Pham Thi Tham from northern Thai Binh Province. A nurse who had just taken a blood sample from her then offered her thanks.
"I always hope for a hearty attitude from medical workers and, particularly want to avoid being told off. That is enough. But now, I am even being thanked by the hospital's medical workers," she said.
Saying thank you to patients is popular in many countries. But in Viet Nam, that word is considered a luxury reserved for well paying patients.
The new custom was introduced by the institute after the health ministry called on medical workers nationwide to communicate well with patients.
The ministry has organised short ethics courses for hospital leaders on this issue. The first training session was held for medical workers from more than 70 hospitals and health clinics in Ha Noi early last month. It wasn't a difficult course. All the workers had to do was to smile at patients and say thank you.
The idea is good. It really is high time for hospitals to encourage a better environment for patients. They deserve to receive better services for what they pay.
Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said at the first training course that there was great demand for improving work ethics of medical workers.
"Medical workers' must consider patients as customers who bring in income for them and deserve thoughtful care," she said. "This included avoiding authoritarian behaviour and having a friendly attitude."
Public hospitals, particularly in big cities, are always overloaded and medical workers are under great pressure treating hundreds of patients each day. However, it does not mean that they have the right to be tough on patients, especially those suffering from pain.
Head of the National Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion Nguyen Anh Tri said the institute provided health check-up for more than 200 patients a day, excluding treatment for around 700 resident patients.
"However, doctors are not allowed to fly into an anger with patients because of their work pressure," he said. "Medical workers should never blame patients or forget to smile," he said.
As a patient, I was always annoyed when some medical workers indicated they had bestowed a favour on me, even though I was paying.
One of my friends, Nguyen Ngoc Quyen, who spent two years living in Australia with her family, said she saw a big difference in the behaviour of medical workers in Viet Nam and those in Australia.
"When taking my son to a local hospital in Australia, I was surprised to see how nice the doctor treated my son. He kept smiling and found ways to encourage my son to forget his pain," she said.
"After finishing checking my son's health condition, he did not forget to say thank you and ask me if I was happy with the service," Quyen said.
While the new "thank you" practice has been introduced at the National Institute of Haematology for nearly a month, I still find it hard to believe that it will eventually be followed by medical workers at all hospitals.
Minister Tien said a new so-called faculty of Ethics for Medical Workers will be set up in medicine universities.
Time will give the answer. — VNS