Vietnam needed to develop a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model in the health sector to help mobilise non-State sectors and improve healthcare check-ups and treatment quality, while easing overloading in public hospitals.

The issue was raised at a workshop held by the Ministry of Health and the World Bank on February 20 to discuss measures to foster co-operation between the Government and the private sector in the healthcare industry.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said public hospitals in Vietnam were constantly overloaded while private hospitals failed to attract patients.

After recently visiting some hospitals in Hanoi and HCM City incognito, he found that many private hospitals were equipped with modern devices and applied high sanitation standards, but only 30 per cent of their patient beds were being used.

Vietnam has 100 private hospitals with 6,000 beds and more than 30,000 private health clinics which could play an important part in reducing overloading in public hospitals.

Meanwhile most central-level public hospitals use up to 120 per cent of their bed capacity.

However, it is a question of how to utilise this private health check-up and treatment system to help ease overloading in public hospitals.

Many participants said one of the answers to this problem was to promote the PPP model in the health sector.

Dam said the private sector had actively participated in the health sector over the past years, but had still failed to meet the actual demand.

More comprehensive policies and mechanisms from land and capital to human resources to help attract new investment capital sources for healthcare projects under the PPP were needed to maximise the capacity of modern private hospitals, he said.

Deputy Health Minister Pham Le Tuan said increasing public demand for health check-ups and treatment, overloading at public hospitals and strong development of private hospitals and clinics were the reasons for developing the PPP model in the health sector.

However, a shortage of policies and mechanisms on PPP in the health sector made projects unattractive to private investors.

Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Dao Quang Thu said many countries such as Canada, the UK , India and South Korea had successfully adopted the PPP model in the health sector.

In Vietnam , the health sector has potential for the development of the PPP model. However, in reality, the participation of the private sector remains limited.

Most participants said the most important thing was to form specific policies and mechanisms for PPP in the health sector, focusing on land, capital and human resources.

Many countries are facing increasing financial pressure from public service sectors, particularly in the field of healthcare, with a global expenditure for this sector surpassing US$4 trillion, equivalent to 9 per cent of global GDP, according to experts from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group.

Public spending often failed to meet people's demand for health check-ups and treatment services, and in many low-income countries, people had to pay up to 60 percent of healthcare fees, they said.

It was important not to consider the PPP model as a tool to provide better healthcare services for those who could afford them, but to help poor patients without health insurance, they said. It meant that the PPP model would help poor patients to be able to access qualified healthcare services.

Dirk Sommer from the IFC said Vietnam needed to learn from other countries in order to form a sustainable PPP model.

A successful PPP model depended on politics, the economy and the implementation of the project, he said.

Sharing his experience in applying the PPP model, the director of the health department in the northern province of Phu Tho, Ho Duc Hai, said the Phu Tho General Hospital had mobilised different investment capital sources to upgrade facilities and equipment, and improve staff training.

This co-operation had helped to increase the hospital's daily turnover to nearly 10 billion VND (470,000 USD) from 100-200 million VND, he said, adding that it had also helped to ease the city's overload.

Deputy Health Minister Tuan said the ministry would ask the Government to draft legal documents for the PPP model, eliminate procedural difficulties and allocate capital and human resources to ensure its success.-VNA