Patients visit HCM City Hospital for Tropical Diseases for disease treatment.(Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - Twenty percent of HCM City’s population with no health insurance have been hit with a 30 percent increase in fees.

The fee increase took effect on October 1 at the group of public hospitals and health centres that were last on the list of places to see higher fees, as approved by the municipal People’s Council.

The first fee increase came into force on August 1 and was applied at 12 public hospitals with financial autonomy.

The fees for health examinations, for instance, rose to 29,000-39,000 VND (1.3-1.7 USD) from 7,000-20,000 VND. Fees for beds increased from 57,000 VND to 157,000 VND per bed for one day.

The city’s Department of Health said the increase would help public hospitals ensure their regular expenditures.

On October 1, the city stopped funding public hospitals except for Nhan Ai Hospital’s two facilities which provide treatment for people in the final stage of AIDS, and for Ben San Hospital for patients with leprosy.

Thach Thi Lien, aged 42, from the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh who works in the city as a housemaid, said that she visited Trung Vuong Hospital in District 10 to treat sinusitis.

She does not have health insurance, so she had to pay more than 1.9 million VND due to the increased fees.

She said that she was unaware of the fee increase. “If I had known the fees increased, I would have bought health insurance,” she added.

At District 9 Hospital, Dang Thanh Dao said that she was worried about her mother’s treatment because her mother did not have health insurance.

The mother was at the hospital’s emergency aid department, but was not expected to need treatment for a long period.

At the city’s Oncology Hospital, nearly 52 percent of patients who visit the hospital for health examinations and treatment have health insurance.

A report from the city-based Vietnam Social Security showed that 80 percent of HCM City’s population are covered by health insurance.

A 23-year-old man with HIV from the city’s Cu Chi district said that he could not afford to buy health insurance.

“My family includes my mother and me. My mother trades in waste plastic, metal and paper for recycling, so her income is for daily needs only. I don’t have a job because I’m unhealthy due to HIV,” the man said.

Nguyen Thi Tu Anh of Hau Giang province, a vendor on Thoai Ngoc Hau street in Tan Phu district, said that she did not think health insurance was necessary. She seldom visits hospitals for treatment.

“Whenever I feel sick, such as coughing and sneezing, I go to drugstores to buy medicine,” she said.

Luu Thi Thanh Huyen, deputy head of the city-based Vietnam Social Security, said that hospital fees were expected to continue to increase, so even those with high incomes would incur higher costs.

Hospitals use the fee increases to pay salaries for health care staff, training and scientific research as the state budget does not allocate funds for these purposes.

People from other provinces and cities who move to live in the city apply for temporary residence status so they can buy health insurance, which can be used at hospitals.

The city aims to have more than 90 percent of its population covered by health insurance by 2020.-VNA