Ho Chi Minh City targets hospital crowding

HCM City plans to reduce at least 80 percent of hospital overload by 2020 and 50 percent by 2015, city officials have told Minister of Health.
HCM City plans to reduce at least 80 percent of hospital overload by 2020 and 50 percent by 2015, city officials have told Minister of Health.

Huynh Van Biet, deputy director of HCM City's Department of Health, told Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien during her visit to HCM City on Feb. 14 that seven hospital projects will help reduce the load.

The hospitals are to be built near the city's four gateways, and will accommodate 5,500 sick beds.

The plan also calls for an increase in the ratio of doctors for every 10,000 people, to 15 doctors by 2015 and 20 doctors by 2020.

Biet said that all of the general and specialised hospitals in the city have exceeded 100 percent of their capacity.

The hospitals have been overburdened with patients because of the high number of people admitted from other provinces, even though grassroots-level hospitals do not operate at their full capacity.

Higher living standards and more convenient transportation conditions have enabled people to travel to big cities where specialised hospitals are equipped with modern facilities and highly skilled doctors.

The patient overload is the worst at cardiovascular, cancer, paediatrics and functional rehabilitation hospitals in the city, Biet said, adding that this year the city will be spending 80-100 billion VND (3.8-4.8 million USD) to upgrade district-level hospitals.

Health officials said that central hospitals in the city are seriously overloaded, with too many patients from districts and provinces, but the matter can not be resolved overnight.

Last year, the number of patients at hospitals in the city increased up to more than 102 percent.

Fifty to 80 percent of the patients at the hospitals came from neighbouring provinces.

Tang Chi Thuong, director of HCM City Children's Hospital 1, said the hospital has been seriously overloaded for several years.

Tran Thanh My, head of HCM City Hospital of Traumatic and Orthopaedics, said the number of hospitalised patients has increased five times in recent years.

The restricted number of trauma and orthopaedic doctors and departments at other hospitals has led to even more pressure at his hospital. There are around 1,000 majoring trauma and orthopaedic doctors in the country.

A doctor for Can Gio General Hospital claimed that the lack of human resources is the main reason patients rejected district-level hospitals.

The hospital has only 16 doctors, and low pay is a hurdle to attract good doctors. His income is 4.5 million VND (225 USD) a month, after one year from graduating university.

Hua Ngoc Thuan, deputy head of HCM City People's Committee, said the city has encouraged doctors from the central level to work at district-level hospitals, where they will receive the same salary they are paid at central hospitals.

They will also receive allowances for working in grassroots-level hospitals.

Thuan said that branches of reputable hospitals such as Cho Ray General Hospital and HCM City Hospital of Traumatic and Orthopedics in other provinces can help reduce the number of patients coming to HCM City.

Tien said the overload has become worse as more patients are coming to city hospitals, although the ministry has developed a project to send doctors to grassroots-level hospitals.

She said that developing facilities at central-level hospitals will be the only solution to the problem.

The ministry is collecting opinions so that it can outline a plan to solve the problems.

In HCM City, the health minister said that satellite hospitals of central hospitals should be built in provincial areas to reduce the overloading at central hospitals.

The ratio of hospital beds in Vietnam, 20.5 per 10,000 people, is low compared to the 33 considered to be the minimum level set by World Health Organisation. It is 86 in the Republic of Korea and 140 in Japan.

The health sector has implemented several measures to minimise hospital overload, including increasing the number of hospital beds and working hours, simplifying administrative procedures, adopting IT solutions and encouraging private-sector investment in the health sector, including the opening of private hospitals./.

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