Easing the nation's overworked hospitals remains a top priority for the health sector, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said at a workshop on improving medical examination and treatment in Hanoi on January 8.

The event, co-organised by the Ministry of Health and Nhan Dan (People) Newspaper, aimed to spotlight challenges preventing efficient examination and treatment in the nation's hospital sector and provide recommendations for policymakers.

Tien said that a series of measures had been implemented to improve patient care in overcrowded hospitals, including expanding the scale of hospital services, reforming examination procedures and additional training for staff to enhance professional skills and promote ethical treatment.

In a bid to ease pressure on hospitals, the Government has decided to invest 20 trillion VND (more than 950 million USD) to build five new central hospitals from the beginning of 2014, according to Tien.

However, the minister added that improving service quality "would not be the responsibility of the health sector alone, but also the Party, Government and society".

Nhan Dan Editor-in-Chief Thuan Huu said that priority needed to be given to tackling shortcomings in examination and treatment procedures citing the current overcrowding crisis sweeping central hospitals.

Huu also said complicated administrative procedures, the overuse of imported drugs, complex testing and financial constraints were pressing problems facing the health sector.

Meanwhile, health ministry statistics show systems for examination and treatment have seen dramatic improvements across the central and local level with services provided to almost 132 million patients in 2012.

Vietnam has seen remarkable achievements in health care with the introduction of the National Expanded Programme for Immunisation, a higher life expectancy of 73 years old and the reduction of mother and child fatality rates. Health insurance cards have also been provided free of charge to those living in poverty, 70 percent of those living near the poverty line, farmers and salt workers thannks to the support from the Government.-VNA