Dr Rafi Kot - The growth of medical facilities in Vietnam

 
Dr Rafi Kot 
Director and Founder,
Family Medical Practice Vietnam
 
“Although there is a growing middle class with increased spending power, they do not use it for healthcare as the public sector is heavily subsidised. They also don’t believe in the benefits of health insurance”
 
Dr Kot delivered an impassioned talk about healthcare in Vietnam. He began with an overview of facilities, stating that in 1997 there were just four private hospitals in Vietnam, whereas today there are 135, signifying growth of 300 per cent. Most, he said, were in the larger cities and areas visited by tourists, including Hanoi, Saigon, Hue and Danang, with more planned for Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, and Ha Long Bay. He added, though, that only 14 hospitals had more than 200 beds. “The investors are not medical groups or doctors, they are extremely wealthy individuals who usually invest in the property market and the source of the money is not always known,” he said. Dr. Kot explained that the common perception in Vietnam is that hospitals are very profitable and that quality of care didn’t matter, but beds do. With an overloaded public healthcare system in Vietnam, Dr Kot said that the private sector was increasingly viewed by the Ministry of Health as a way of alleviating pressure on budgets and beds. He noted that some of the key drivers for healthcare in the country were an ageing population, rapid urbanisation placing increasing pressure on cities, and a shift to industrialisation, which is affecting health and lifestyle. There is also serious pollution in urban areas, smoking and alcohol-related problems, increasing intake of high-calorie foods, and lack of regular exercise. He said that in 2011, 63 per cent of Vietnamese were covered by the government’s Universal Health Insurance Programme, which will be aggressively increased to 95 per cent by 2020, but it was worth little to nothing and not gladly accepted in hospitals. “Although there is a growing middle class with increased spending power, they do not use it for healthcare as the public sector is heavily subsidised. They also don’t believe in the benefits of health insurance,” he said.
 
Despite the emergence of a private sector, Dr Kot said that the public perception was that the best doctors were in the public hospitals. “Private hospitals are seen as providing better caring services but not well-trained or experiences doctors. The means that private hospitals have to co-operate with public hospitals. However, doctors are only allowed to work in private hospitals after hours,” he said. He also added that privatisation of public hospitals had been discussed for more than a decade, but had met with strong resistance from doctors and is not seen as feasible. He added that there was no talk about medical tourism as this was not possible without government support. Dr Rafi also cautioned that language was a barrier for foreign travellers, medical costs could be exorbitant and medical health insurance was a must.   

ITIJ - International Travel & Health Insurance Journal
August 2014 - Issue 163
Others: