The shortage of health workers, particularly doctors, has become a huge concern at communal health clinics, according to Dr Dao Thi Ngoc Lan, director of the Yen Bai Department of Health.

Speaking to the Health and Life newspaper, she blamed the situation on poor investment and inadequate equipment related to health examinations.

Lan added that at present, there are only 992 staff working at province’s communal clinics, of which 86 are doctors, 387 assistant doctors, 11 technicians, 64 secondary pharmacists, 209 nurses and 222 midwives.

“The number of clinics with fully qualified doctors accounts for nearly 49 percent while those with assistant doctors specialised in maternity and paediatrics, as well as midwives, accounts for 98 percent,” she said.

Under the inter-ministerial Circular 08, drawn up between the Ministries of Health and Home Affairs, Yen Bai is in need of 123 additional medical staff members.

What worries Dr Lan the most concerns recently graduated doctors refusing to work at provincial centres which had previously provided them with scholarships.

Luu Thi Xuyen, deputy director of the Minh Quan Communal Clinic, said: “We had planned to have a doctor at the clinic by this time, but our initial candidate has been transferred elsewhere.”

While there are currently six staff members working at the clinic, none are doctors.

Dr Lan noted that out of the 180 communal clinics in Yen Bai, few are able to work independently due to equipment shortages.

“Most are only equipped with essential tools for basic check-ups and the treatment of common ailments,” she added.

As a solution, Lan suggested that her department would call for additional investment in health services, especially in terms of human resource development.

For the time being, she has pinned her hopes on the quality of communal health clinic staff in wining the trust and confidence of local inhabitants.

“This can help our staff feel more attached to their work,” she emphasised.

Department Vice Director Luong Van Hom said that over the last few years, the province has offered scholarships, worth 40 million VND (1,900 USD) each, to local health workers. Graduates will receive 35-40 million VND (1,600-1,900 USD), known as an “allowance to attract”, when they start work in disadvantaged areas.

However, Hom said that, current monthly salaries at communes’ clinics are only around 1-2 million VND (47-95 USD), offering little incentive to do proper work.

Moreover, he added that it is problem that the private sector, which pays almost nothing towards staff training, can attract doctors with higher salaries./.