Public hospitals join private clinics in rip-off

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Báo Tuổi Trẻ English - 38 month(s) ago 2 readings

Public hospitals join private clinics in rip-off

It is a double-whammy for poor patients in Vietnam – not only are fees high in public hospitals but they also prescribe unnecessary drugs and tests.

patient A patient is scanned by a state-of-the-art machine in Hospital K in Hanoi Photo: Tuoi Tre

Part 1: Patients burdened with hospital fee increase
Part 2: Public hospitals join private clinics in rip-off

The Vietnam Social Insurance said it had discovered recently that almost all patients admitted to the National Heart Institute were prescribed liver supplements despite not needing them.

Nguyen Thi H, who recently went to the Hanoi-based Bach Mai Hospital, said the cost of nutritional supplements prescribed for her was 12 times as much that of medicines.

Luu Thi Thanh Huyen, head of assessment at the Ho Chi Minh City Social Insurance, said virtually no hospital in the city used grayscale ultrasonography any longer though it was good enough for diagnosis.

They insisted that patients should have color ultrasonography done since it was “advanced technology,” she said.

“So, instead of having to pay just VND80,000 (US$4) for a grayscale ultrasonography test, patients now have to pay double for a 3-D or 4-D color one.”

Analog tomography had also been given up since hospitals now preferred digital X-rays, she said.

“Analog scanning costs only VND20,000 while digital X-rays cost patients VND60,000.”

Inflammation of nasal cavity, or sinusitis used to be diagnosed accurately with tomography, but hospitals had begun to force patients to get CT scans, which cost as much as VND1 million ($48.7) extra, she said.

“This is completely wasteful and unnecessary.”

A top official at the Vietnam Social Insurance told Tuoi Tre that his agency’s inspection of several public hospitals suspected of fleecing patients found that they had prescribed VND10 billion ($487,800) worth color ultrasonography for abdominal diagnosis though 2-D ultrasound was the most effective tool.

“Patients had to pay 7.5 times more,” he said.

Many hospitals had prescribed expensive drugs to patients without following due processes.

But such discoveries were only the tip of the iceberg since the Vietnam Social Insurance could only investigate treatment of patients with insurance, he warned.

Meanwhile, private hospitals continue to prescribe unnecessary and often expensive medical tests.

Two months ago Nguyen Thi Ha of Hanoi went to VM clinic on Ngo Gia Kham Street with a runny nose and cough.

She told the doctors there she had been diagnosed as having pharyngitis (sore throat), but they still insisted that she had to do an ENT endoscopy, blood, urine, rheumatoid factor (Rf) and Antistreptolysin O (ASLO) tests, and X-rays of the heart and lung.

Stunned to learn the tests cost VND500,000, she left for TT, a clinic on Thai Thinh Street. There she was asked to spend VND400,000 for an endoscopy, blood test, and X-rays.

Nguyen Ba Tinh, an official at the Vietnam Social Insurance, said ASLO and Rf tests were done to detect if pharyngitis had had an effect on a patient’s joints, and should only be prescribed if a patient has arthralgia or pain on joints on top of pharyngitis.

“It is wasteful, especially for poor patients, to have to undergo such tests.”

Last month 50-year-old Nguyen Thi Lap of Bac Ninh came to a private hospital in Hanoi for surgery on a tumor. She was told the cost of endoscopic surgery would be VND16 million ($769,000).

She then went to the Vietnam - Germany hospital and got the surgery done for just VND5 million.

Endoscopist Nguyen Thanh Liem said a surgery should not cost VND16 million.

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