A consultative workshop on hospital autonomy, the quality of hospital services and management took place in Hanoi on December 16, with both domestic and international experts in attendance.

Prior to 1989, all public hospitals in Vietnam were highly subsidised by the State, offering medical check-ups and treatment to the public for free.

As the country entered the renovation (doi moi) stage, hospitals were allowed to charge patients a portion of treatment expenses and spend it on improving operations. Later, hospitals gradually shifted from merely performing the tasks assigned by the State to providing services in order to exist.

In line with this trend, the government issued a decree in April 2006 providing for the autonomy and self-responsibility in terms of task performance, organisational apparatus, payroll and finance of public non-business units, including hospitals.

According to head of the Health Ministry’s Planning and Finance Department Nguyen Nam Lien, eight years after the decree’s promulgation, 8 out of 39 hospitals under the management of the Health Ministry have become self-reliant financially while 5 others are still relying on the State budget for regular activities.

Thanks to autonomy, many public hospitals have restructured their apparatus, mobilised capital for human resources development and equipment procurement.

However, it also exposes drawbacks, including the unnecessary use of hi-tech equipment that costs patients a lot of expenses.

A representative from the Policy and Health Care Management Faculty at Japan’s Keio University shared the experience of Japanese hospitals, saying that public and private health establishments should offer services for similar rates and they should be treated on equal terms.

Participants also examined lessons from China and some Vietnamese hospitals which have successfully followed the autonomy system.

The workshop was co-hosted by the Health Ministry and the World Health Organisation.-VNA