Last update 8/28/2011 8:00:00 AM (GMT+7)

Patients “blackmailed” at hospitals
VietNamNet Bridge – Overload is not the sole problem for patients at public hospitals. When going to hospitals, patients have to pay a lot of “black fees”.

Vietnamese hospitals extremely overloaded

Patients have to pay “black fees’ for every service at public hospitals and this is an obsession for them.

Queuing at the consulting room of a big hospital in Hanoi from the early morning, many patients have to see their efforts in vain. Those who come late and do not queue are given priority to enjoy check-up service early. These disadvantaged patients are mainly rural men. They do not dare to protest, just whisper to each other: “They have money, so they are given priority!”

Many patients told VietNamNet that they have pay black tips to doctors and nurses to be examined and taken care “warmly”. They said that in a hospital room of a dozen of patients, with only one nurse and one doctor, if they do not pay black tips, they would not have been taken care carefully.

Newly-appointed Minister of Health, Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, admitted to Thanh Nien Newspaper that the unsympathetic behavior of health workers, and taking black tips from patients is the biggest problem of the health sector.

Minister Tien said she witnessed a patient put cash into the pocket of a nurse to have his drap changed.

“Health workers must be re-educated of medical ethics,” Tien said.

Besides “traditional blackmailing” – giving cash directly, health workers use hidden tricks to “pick-pocket” patients.

They can fill prescriptions with specialized medicines to take commissions from pharmaceutical producers, ask patients to do many kinds of unnecessary tests, etc.

VietNamNet previously reported the fact that many doctors wrote out prescriptions with specialized medicines worth hundreds of US dollars, while patients could buy medicines of similar effects at much cheaper prices. This is a great waste for patients but it benefits doctors.

“Why prescriptions include 5-7 kinds of medicines while patients only need 2-3 types of medicines? Why doctors do not note the original names of medicines but the commercial names? Why patients have to suffer from abuse of medical tests? That’s medical ethics!” Minister Tien told Thanh Nien Newspaper on her first day at office.

Prof. Pham Gia Khai, Vice Chair of the Committee for Protecting and Taking Care of Health of Central Officials, commented: “Vietnamese patients are not examined and treated in the way they are deserved”.

Dr. Le Thanh Hai, deputy director of the Central Pediatrics Hospital, said that the legitimate, minimum rights of any patient include: being examined carefully, being provided with information and consultation of their diseases, being treated in good conditions (one patient per bed), and being taken care timely and thoughtfully.

However, in the context that one doctor has to examine 100 patients a day and the facilities of hospitals are very poor, patients cannot enjoy their basic rights.

“Our hospital wants to improve patient rooms, but we cannot because the hospital area is fixed while the number of patients is on the right,” Dr. Hai explained why 2-3 patients have to share a bed.

Hai said the Central Pediatrics Hospital was established in 1983 with 400 beds. The hospital now has 1,000 beds while its area is not expanded. So far, this has been the only one hospital for children in Hanoi while Vietnam’s population rises highly.

Hai said that whenever his family’s members were ill and have to go to hospital, he was also “obsessed”!

Cam Quyen