Photo: Duc Anh
Increase in charges to be staggered among localities, with the timing based on health insurance coverage.
From August to January 2017 there will be five increases to hospital charges, Head of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Planning and Finance, Mr. Nguyen Nam Lien, announced at the annual meeting of northern hospital directors held in Nghe An province on June 4.
The plan is stipulated in Circular No. 37. The first increase will be at the end of August, in cities and provinces where health insurance coverage is 95 per cent. The second increase is in October, in cities and provinces with coverage of 90 per cent.
The third adjustment is in November, in areas where coverage is 85 per cent, with the fourth to come in December, in cities and provinces where coverage is 80 per cent. The final increase, in remaining areas in the country, will be in January 2017.
Medical services, which is in the basket of goods used to calculate the CPI, will increase by less than 2 per cent from the increases, Mr. Lien assessed. Budgets for hospitals and clinics after January 2017 will be largely unaffected, he added.
Plans to increase hospital charges, including salary increases for medical staff, means hospitals must not have charges that are higher than currently stipulated, Mr. Lien went on. He emphasized that hospitals are not to collect extra money from patients, except for the gap not covered by health insurance.
Hospitals must also spend at least 5 per cent of their revenue on improving medical services. Charges must be based on market demand, not on revenue targets, he added.
Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said that when hospitals have created a suitable fee schedule and there are increases in health insurance coverage, hospitals must try to attract patients, which can only be done by improving service quality.
Many hospitals have received major investment and resemble hotels. She acknowledged, however, that there are still hospitals with poor services. The ministry, she said, is determined to reform the attitude and behavior of staff at hospitals.
On March 1 the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance adjusted charges for 1,887 technical medical services, by an average of 30 per cent. At that time the Deputy Director of Vietnam - Germany Hospital, Ms. Nguyen Thi Bich Huong, said this would bring more benefits to patients.
When hospitals have sufficient profit after investment they will have the funds needed to re-invest in the hospital, such as in facilities and infrastructure. Medical staff also have to improve their attitudes and behavior because if services are good then patients will return, and hospitals will earn more revenue.
Director of the Quang Ninh General Hospital, Mr. Trinh Van Manh, said the fee increase will not impact on social welfare. He estimated that health insurance coverage is about 82 per cent in Quang Ninh, so the increase will not be a burden for most local people.