Hospitals across the country are taking advantage of the fact that the Ministry of Health has no set official standards on medical tests and hence are using this to exploit patients to extract more money.
Patients who need to be transferred from a hospital or clinic to another are often required to undergo a repeat of all medical tests because doctors of one hospital rarely accept tests done elsewhere. This is not just time consuming but expensive as well.
An elderly female patient from district Hoai Duc, waiting at the laboratory of the crowded Saint Paul Hospital in Hanoi complained that her assumption was that doctors could diagnose her ailment after a simple blood test, for which she suffered a three hour wait.
However, they asked her to undergo a urine test and a belly ultrasound scan as well.
Many patients have to undergo a number of tests which are often not even related to any of their symptoms. Like for instance, some patients are asked to go through a urine test or an ECG (electrocardiogram) although they experience nothing more than a mild fever or dizziness.
On the other hand, patients also have to undergo a repeat of numerous medical tests as doctors of one hospital will not accept tests done in another hospital or clinic, proving a harassing exercise and a huge loss of money to patients.
Pham Thu Huong’s husband from the northern province of Phu Tho was diagnosed with kidney stones in the district hospitals. However, when he was moved to Hanoi he was asked to go through all the tests once again. Huong is not just upset but also confused with conflicting reports of his condition from different hospitals.
The situation is the same in Ho Chi Minh City. For years both private and state-run hospitals have been sending patients to repeat tests that were previously done at other facilities, especially if the tests had been done using relatively new technology, as not all hospitals have modern equipment.
The Ministry of Health has not yet issued a central laboratory testing standard whereby all medical tests can follow a standard procedure and be accepted by hospitals and medical clinics across the country. Meantime, some medical laboratories are still using outdated equipment and doctors from some hospitals do not accept these results as accurate, which burden then falls on the suffering patients.
In addition, unskilled doctors in remote district hospitals do not always read test results correctly.
According to statistics of the Department of Health Examination and Treatment under the Ministry of Health, biochemistry tests increased by 12.4 percent with 134 million tests and blood tests and microbiological tests soared by 7 percent. Hospitals conducted 1.4 million CT scans, an increase by 9.9 percent; 16 million ultrasound scans, an increase by 6.9 percent and 2 million endoscopies, an increase by 24.5 percent.
Dr. Nghiem Tran Dung, vice director of Vietnam's Department of Health Insurance, said hospitals abuse the use of medical tests because they intentionally want to extract more money from patients to increase health insurance funds.