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Le Van Chanh, deputy head of the Association of Anal and Rectal Diseases of Vietnam, said the clinics only would have dared to commit those violations if they had insider backing.
Chanh raised his concern at a meeting between the Ho Chi Minh City Health Department and the city’s Oriental Medicine Association, which sought measures to strengthen oversight of traditional medicine clinics.
He also complained about exaggerated marketing.
“Whenever I watch advertisements of Chinese clinics on TV, I get very upset,” Chanh said. “I wonder why the Vietnamese health sector lets them broadcast such wrongful and boastful ads. What a sad situation.”
The clinics have come under recent fire because city health inspectors and Tuoi Tre found they were selling expired or unapproved medicines, issuing false diagnoses, employing unlicensed doctors, and conducting and advertising services beyond their certifications.
A "doctor" at the Chinese clinic answers questions by a police officer in Ward 2, Phu Nhuan District (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
Dr. Pham Khanh Phong Lan, deputy director of the Health Department, admitted that her agency’s loose management of clinics contributed to the problems exposed in the media.
She said the department didn’t know about many of the violations until they surfaced in the press, even though prior inspectors had visited the clinics and reported no infractions.
Some fear the activities of Chinese clinics are hurting their Vietnamese competitors. Oriental Medicine Association president Dr. Truong Thin said at the meeting that “while local traditional doctors are facing difficulties in their operations, their Chinese counterparts who arrive in Vietnam to practice medicine have been left do anything they want.”
With a 4,000-year medical tradition, Vietnamese doctors teach around the world and hold their own against Chinese, Thin said. But, he said, few of the more than 1,000 traditional medicine clinics in the city can afford to compete with the fairly successful advertisements of Chinese clinics. Thin also blamed the media for publishing the ads without question.
Lan said her department would tighten inspections, not to save its reputation, but to protect patients.
She said Ho Chi Minh City has three foreign-invested clinics, two Chinese and the other Taiwanese.