HCM City authorities have recently asked the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance to consider permitting private healthcare facilities to provide Covid-19 treatment services to patients on demand.
This is a strategic proposal in the "long-term" fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, which is controversial at the moment.
At the Covid-19 Resuscitation Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thanh Tung
Some say that private healthcare facilities should not be allowed to offer treatment services to Covid-19 patients on demand because it will more clearly reveal "social inequality". Well-off patients will receive better treatment while the rest cannot access the service with the desired quality.
However, others say that the city’s proposal is worth considering because the participation of the private sector will help increase healthcare service supply and improve service quality. Furthermore, as private healthcare facilities increase their capacity to treat Covid-19 patients, a significant number of patients who can afford will switch to private healthcare services, and there will be more room for Covid-19 patients who need to use public health services.
Chairman of the Vietnam Private Hospital Association Nguyen Van De said: "I fully support this policy and I hope that it will be passed as soon as possible so that the private hospital system can participate in the fight against Covid-19."
De said that since the 4th wave broke out, many doctors and medical staff of private hospitals have volunteered to go to HCM City and some southern provinces to join their colleagues in public hospitals to fight the pandemic. Private hospitals still pay salaries, even higher salaries for these doctors and medical staff.
“Many private hospitals do not care about benefits to focus their human resources and efforts on protecting the health of people in the South. However, the private health system cannot go a long way without the State’s mechanism that allow private healthcare facilities to provide treatment for Covid-19 patients,” he said.
According to reports from private medical facilities in HCM City, many patients are able to pay and are willing to pay for Covid-19 treatment services on demand.
De said that he had received dozens of phone calls from friends who tested positive for Sars-Cov-2 in HCM City who could afford to pay for on-demand treatment services. However, none of the public hospitals accepted them because of overcrowding and they had asked him for help.
De said that HCM City’s proposal would help meet the very legitimate needs of these patients.
“The State should have a mechanism to ensure publicity and transparency in prices to avoid taking advantage of patients. At that time, private medical facilities will have the resources to buy drugs and improve services," De said.
According to the People's Committee of HCM City, through surveys and opinions of private medical facilities, the procurement of drugs and medical supplies as well as usage norms and costs for treating Covid-19 patients are different in public and private health systems.
Private medical facilities purchase medical materials without bidding, so the prices are higher than those paid by public medical facilities. The use of supplies (masks, protective gear) and the salaries paid to medical staff at private facilities are also many times higher than that of the public sector.
According to the People's Committee of HCM City, if the patient voluntarily pays the entire treatment cost (without using funds from the state budget), the private medical facility will follow the patient's commitment to cover the cost.
De said: “It is suitable for the market mechanism as the state does not control the price. Private hospitals cannot charge too much because patients have the right to choose services”.
According to De, prevention of the Covid-19 epidemic is a long-term battle because the Sars-Cov-2 virus can exist for a long time, so both the private and public health systems must be mobilized to have more resources to serve people.
HCM City authorities have asked the ministries of health and finance to devise a payment scale for COVID patients at private medical facilities.
Many resources in society have been mobilized for testing, vaccination and medical quarantine, which has improved service quality and helped businesses earn revenue.