The Ministry of Health has for the first time issued a set of criteria to assess hospitals towards improving the quality of services provided and increase patients' satisfaction.

Introduced earlier this month, the set has a total of 83 criteria, including 19 norms related to patient care, 14 to workforce development, 38 to professional quality, eight to quality improvement, and four to professional knowledge. Each criterion will have five levels: bad, average, moderately good, good and very good.

Nguyen Trong Khoa, deputy director of the Ministry's Medical Services Administration, said that so far, the assessment of hospitals was based on a year-end inspection that most passed with excellent results. The new norms would make the assessment more detailed, accurate and closer to reality.

At present, hospitals across the country are carrying out self-assessments based on the new set of criteria. Next year, the ministry will set up inspector delegations to go to every hospital and re-assess their services. They will observe the work of doctors and nurses, check hospital records and interview patients as well as their relatives.

"Our main goal is to find quality gaps between hospitals and then search for measures to improve them. However, we think that no hospital can meet all the 83 norms," said Khoa.

He said the ministry would collect opinions from hospitals and agencies and consider amending the criteria to have them match actual situations.

However, some doctors and patients have already said they feel it is impossible for the hospitals to meet the norms. They believe most of hospitals can only reach average levels now.

Associate Professor Nguyen Tien Quyet, director of the Vietnam-Germany Hospital, said that many of the norms were too difficult for hospitals to implement. He cited as an example the criterion that hospitals must automatically deliver medicines to different wards and rooms. "No hospital in the country can do it," he said.

He said that yet another criterion, which says patients should be allowed to wait their turn for health checks in well-equipped rooms and are taken to wards based on their condition was also impractical.

In many big hospitals like the Bach Mai Hospital and National Hospital for Obstetrics and Gynaecology, patients were having to wait in corridors, so "it is certain that it will take hospitals a long time to reach this norm," Quyet said.

He said his hospital's self-assessment based on the norms showed that it only reached the average level.

"The current criteria are based on international norms, so they should be adjusted to suit domestic realities, otherwise, many hospitals will be ranked as bad, denying the hard work they do," said Quyet.

Ngo Hong Mai, a doctor with the Bach Mai Hospital, agreed with Quyet saying not many hospitals were equipped to satisfy even apparently simple conditions like "expanding the programme to have patients wash their hands".

The number of toilets and taps in hospitals were limited compared to large number of patients they had to take care of, said Mai, adding that h ospitals also did not have enough nurses to ensure that patients' nutrition needs are taken care of during their treatment.-VNA