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Fostering medical tourism on the agenda of health ministry conference

S. Sokunthea, a 38-year-old Cambodian, was brought to Vietnam for treatment at the City International Hospital in HCM City.

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Gia An 115 Hospital is a popular medical destination for foreigners. Photo courtesy of sggp.org.vn

She was in a critical condition at the time of admission.

She had undergone emergency caesarean section and hysterectomy to stop bleeding in Cambodia, but a prolonged haemorrhage resulted in multi-organ failure and secondary coagulopathy.

After two weeks of treatment at the City International Hospital, she gradually recovered.

Y.Vannara, 54, came to Vietnam from Laos with colon cancer and has made a total of five visits for health checks.

“In Laos, many people with similar illnesses choose to come to Vietnam for treatment and their outcomes are positive. The doctors and nurses here are friendly and enthusiastic, and instructed me step by step on how to take care of myself.”

Cho Ray Hospital, HCM City University Medical Centre, Gia An 115 Hospital, and Oncology Hospital are some of the popular destinations for foreign medical tourists.

In the first six months of this year the HCM City University Medical Centre examined 8,282 foreigners and overseas Vietnamese and provided inpatient treatment to 927. For Cho Ray Hospital the numbers were 1,793 and 292.

According to the Ministry of Health, a total of 89,000 foreigners came to the country for medical reasons and 10,100 underwent treatment in the period.

Most of the patients, from Cambodia, Laos, China, the U.S, the Philippines, and Australia, consider the quality of healthcare in Vietnam good.

They come mostly for cardiovascular, dental, oncological, and cosmetic surgery.

The ministry held a conference on December 14 to discuss how to attract foreigners, Vietnamese living overseas and affluent locals to Vietnamese hospitals in case of ailments.

Experts expressed concern about the fact that 40,000 Vietnamese choose to go abroad every year for medical treatment.

Though the quality of the country’s medical services is better than in other countries in the region, they said the inefficient mechanism to collect international insurance payments discourages people from returning for further checks after having surgeries done here.

“Our infrastructure is still poor and public hospitals tend to lack well-rounded healthcare services such as 24/24 care givers, translators and quality rooms,” one expert said.

According to Assoc Prof Luong Ngoc Khue, director of the Medical Services Administration, Vietnam has highly competent doctors who can handle severe cases.

“In order to maintain foreign patients’ interest, it is important for all hospitals to invest in better infrastructure and skilled human resources. Besides, locals should be aware that Vietnamese hospitals can handle difficult cases like foreign hospitals.” – VNS

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