Many schools in the capital city are struggling to overcome skills and infrastructure shortages to deliver quality student health care, a headache especially for private kindergartens.

Hanoi has more than 2,300 schools ranging from kindergartens to continuing education centres with more than 1.3 million students. More than 1,700 schools, or 73 percent, are reported to have health rooms.

Deputy director of the Long Bien district Office of Education and Training Hoang Kim Phuong said few private kindergartens in her district had health rooms or simple health equipment. "We ask the wards' health centres in the district to support these schools. However, it will still be dangerous if students have serious illness," she said.

Nguyen Thuy Thuan, principal of the Trung Hoa Kindergarten in Cau Giay district, said some schools asked veteran teachers to act as medical workers while specialised medical workers were needed in kindergartens to administer treatments.

Nguyen Minh Hai, an expert of the city's Department of Health, said the quality of school medical staff was still low. Most were physicians and nurses, and only some foreign-invested schools had doctors.

Hai also stated that many school medical workers thought their duty was only to take care of sick students, but in fact their positions also encompassed the responsibility to inspect classroom lights, school hygiene and kitchens and advise the school management board on how to ensure healthy students.

So far, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Training have been short of rules on ensuring the qualifications of school medical staff. It is also believed that the salary and allowances for medical workers were so low it was difficult for schools to attract qualified professionals to schools, said Hai.

Aside from schools, district health centres are also feeling the pinch from the doctors shortage. But more importantly, school doctors have been so overwhelmed with immediate health related problems that they have been unable to fulfill outside duties.

In a bid to improve the situation, the municipal health sector is looking to partner with the Department of Education and Training to hold training classes for school medical workers.

"The department will also issue documents asking private kindergartens to join with local health centres to conduct student health care procedures," said Hai.

Education on the care of children will also be expanded to include teachers, students and parents.

The city health sector will trial a pilot model in optical and dental diseases and assign specialist medical workers to take part in training courses and conferences to share knowledge and raise awareness.

The health and education sectors will also be working to strengthen their inspection of school health care including food safety, dental and optical care, and first aid capabilities.

Associate Professor Nguyen Dac Phu, director of the Ministry of Health's Department of Preventive Medicines, said the ministry would issue regulations on school medical worker qualifications. The regulation will need consensus from relevant bodies.-VNA