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Local hospitals fail to meet needs of child patients despite health cards

Viet Nam News - 06.06.06

22 giu 2006
Children under six years of age have been receiving free medical care at provincial hospitals since January 1, using health-care cards issued by the State. Phu Tho Province has so far issued 106,000 cards but there are still problems that need to be sorted out to improve the quality of children’s health care.Using the free health care cards, parents take better care of their children’s health. As soon as children show symptoms of disease, their parents immediately take them to hospital where they not only get free treatment and medicine, but parents also receive information on preventing and treating diseases. Children under six suffering common diseases pay no fees and in the case of deadly diseases, the State will lend assistance to cover all medical expenses. However, the health card is not divided into different levels and a lot of patients take advantage of the service. Instead of taking their children to local hospitals, parents prefer going to higher-level hospitals where they believe their children can get better treatment. "I don’t have to pay, so why can’t I go to higher-level hospital to ensure the quality of treatment," is a thought many parents share. This has led to the situation where high-level hospitals are often overcrowded with child patients. Phu Tho Hospital’s paediatric department has 35 beds for 65 overnight child patients. Sometimes three children have to share the same bed. Nguyen Thi Hoa from Tien Cat Ward, Viet Tri City, when asked why she did not take her child to their local clinic, said: "At Phu Tho Hospital, there is modern equipment like ultra-sound." "For normal illnesses like flu or diarrhoea, parents can take children to district or ward-level hospitals where they will receive excellent treatment," said Chief of Phu Tho Hospital Paediatric Department Nguyen Thi Hong. She added that in terms of qualifications, doctors in districts and wards are equal to doctors at provincial level. The provincial hospital has so far treated 1,200 children, most of whom had illnesses which could have been treated at their local hospitals. There is only one doctor and one nurse at the examination room, who have to see up to 140 children daily. "This overload causes decreasing health care quality," Hong said. Another problem is that apart from treating patients from lower-level hospitals, Phu Tho Hospital also treat children from other provinces like Yen Bai, Ha Tay and Vinh Phuc. Decree 36/2005/ND-CP pointed out that, in the case of emergency, children under six-years-old who live elsewhere can get free treatment at the provincial hospital. Phu Tho Hospital has spent more than VND400 million treating such children. Meanwhile, the funds of the free health care programme are limited. This situation, where patients prefer to go to higher-level hospitals, proves that the infrastructure and medical equipment in lower-level hospitals do not meet patients’ demands. Medical staff member’s lack of qualification also leads to patients not trusting them. The improvement of hospitals at lower levels is a necessary measure to solve the problem. Viet Nam News - 06.06.06