Vietnam's medical system remains at a point where those who can afford it prefer to head overseas for treatment.
The number of Vietnamese patients willing to spend large sums on going overseas for medical treatment has increased in recent years.
The Ministry of Health reports that some $2 billion was spent last year on heart and cancer treatments and cosmetic surgery in foreign countries such as Singapore, China, South Korea, the US, France, and Thailand. The cost of medical treatment abroad is much higher than in Vietnam but many people are willing to pay.
Overloading at local hospitals is believed to be the main reason seeking treatment elsewhere. There are more than 13,000 medical centers in Vietnam, including 1,166 public hospitals and 102 private hospital, with nearly 300,000 beds, according to the latest figures from the General Statistics Office. Hospitals in major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are usually working at 120 per cent capacity, with patients sharing beds.
The overload also results in poor service, complex administrative procedures, and less capable doctors, which make Vietnamese patients prefer to head overseas if they can afford it.
One patient, Quoc Cuong, a businessman who has received treatment in both Vietnam and Singapore, said there were big differences between the two medical systems. “Local doctors hardly even asked me about my illness before sending me for tests and the results can differ from hospital to hospital,” he said, adding that he had to wait for a long time in every step of the tests. In Singapore, meanwhile, doctors and nurses asked him carefully about his problem and treated him with a very attentive attitude and a high level of responsibility. “That made me feel more secure about my health problem,” he said.
According to Dr. Joel Leroy, a famous French laparoscopic expert who visited Hanoi to share endoscopy techniques, if the amount of money Vietnamese spent abroad was invested in technical development and medical infrastructure at home it would be sufficient for introducing many types of new medical technology. He added that many Vietnamese doctors use such techniques to the same standard as their foreign counterparts.
Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien said that Vietnam has highly-skilled doctors who were capable of handling tough cases and many hospitals meet international standards. However, due to a lack of policies, confidence among patients in local hospitals remains low. Vietnamese doctors have developed new treatment techniques and made significant progress. Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said that comprehensive reforms have been conducted to improve ethics among doctors and health workers.