Health experts have called for greater political and financial support to improve the medical system and strengthen community awareness activities to prevent tuberculosis in Vietnam.

"Vietnam needs more political commitment to release financial and human resources to minimise tuberculosis (TB) cases and eliminate the disease by 2030," said Vice Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Xuyen.

Xuyen was speaking at a workshop on TB prevention held by the Party Central Committee's Commission for Popularisation and Education and the Ministry of Health (MoH) on March 22.

A TB survey conducted in 2006 by the MoH revealed that the rate of TB cases was 145/100,000 in Vietnam, higher than the previous World Health Organisation estimate of 109/100,000. However, the health sector only managed to treat around 60 percent of TB patients due to a lack of human resources, especially at local levels.

Health sector statistics showed that the current number of doctors who specialise in TB prevention is 1.58/100,000 compared with the general practitioner rate of 12/100,000. There could be a shortage of staff involved in TB prevention for a number of reasons, including a high risk of infection, low income and even discrimination.

Director of the National Lung Hospital Dinh Ngoc Sy said that many provinces haven't given due attention to TB prevention, leaving many TB patients misdiagnosed or unreported, putting them at risk of spreading the infection in their communities.

A representative from the TB and Lung Diseases Hospital of central Ha Tinh province said that there was a TB staff shortage at provincial and district levels because there was no preferential policy for staff working in the field other than an allowance equal to 35 percent of the minimum wage.

The TB and Lung Diseases Hospital of central Da Nang city revealed that it had been unable to hire a TB doctor for the past 10 years because no one wanted the job.

The National TB Prevention Programme estimated that Vietnam needed to mobilise an additional 258 million USD to supplement the 340 million USD from State and provincial budgets, and international support for TB prevention during the 2011-15 period.

Successful detection and treatment of TB were vital in the fight to prevent the disease in Vietnam, said Sy.

He stressed that the political system should give priorities for TB prevention in the coming years with an aim to strengthen the health system with sufficient numbers of capable human resources, financing and techniques.

The health sector should train more staff to fill the human resource gap in TB prevention as well as mobilise private medical units into the fight against TB. The health sector's TB prevention system and community awareness of TB prevention should also be strengthened at all levels with an aim to provide available access to TB patients, said Sy.

According to the National Programme for TB Prevention, TB prevalence was still a pressing problem inVietnam which currently ranks 12 out of 22 countries struggling with TB prevention throughout the world.

In 2009, more than 98,000 cases of TB were reported inVietnam, including more than 51,000 new patients and 26,000 people seeing reoccurring cases. Each year, the health sector successfully treats more than 91 percent of patients who are detected with the disease.

The World Health Organisation said that there were more than 9 million cases of TB reported across the world each year, leading to 2 million deaths. Between 95-98 percent of TB cases occurred in developing countries and 75 per cent hit people who were at a working age./.