Guarantees are a gamble: doctors
VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese doctors have to decide whether they should sign personal guarantees for poor patients so they can be treated without having to wait for a deposit to be made.
Doctors examine patients at the Viet Nam - Germany Hospital in Ha Noi. Experts have called for a dedicated guarantee fund so that doctors do not have to sign personal guarantees for poor patients in emergencies.
It's particularly difficult in emergency cases when patients required immediate medical care but did not have sufficient finances for their treatment, Ha Noi Moi (New Ha Noi) newspaper reported
"It's a gamble and we are not always right," said Dr Nguyen Trung Cap from the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases.
Cap said some patients and their families left the hospital once they realised the hospital bill was too much for them. The doctors who signed personal guarantees were then responsible for their patients' hospital bills.
"Our hospitals often understand our difficult situation and do not make us pay, but everyone knows they will have to subtract the amount from our salary funds. In a sense, we all share the same responsibility and we all have to bear the consequences of patients who do not pay their hospital bills," he said.
Doctors are often reminded not to trust people too easily and only sign personal guarantees when it's absolutely necessary.
"It sounds a lot easier in theory. When you are treating a patient who is about to die unless they are treated immediately in an ER room, all other things seem trivial compared to your patient's life," Cap added.
It's even more complicated when the whole family does not agree on the cost of the treatment beforehand.
Dr. Luu Quang Thuy from the Viet Duc Hospital ER once treated a young pregnant mother who arrived at hospital in a comatose state. Her complications threatened both her life and the baby inside of her.
He was shocked to learn that her family wanted to take her home because they could not afford the treatment. Thuy decided to sign a personal guarantee anyway and treated the young mother. She recovered, and three weeks later gave birth to a healthy baby.
"She came to see me later to say thanks. When I saw her and her newborn baby, I knew that I would risk it again if I had to," Thuy said.
Dr. Pham The Thach said some families asked very difficult questions such as whether the doctor can be 100 per cent sure the patients will recover if they are treated. Some only agreed to pay if the doctor said yes.
"How do you answer those questions as a doctor? Knowing that if you say no, your patient may not get the treatment they need," Thach said.
He said that the lack of a guarantee fund to allow doctors to treat patients without a deposit was the source of many heart-wrenching stories.
"We do our best. We are always looking for sponsors and charities to help our patients, but they can only do so much. We cannot count on them all the time," he noted.
Doctors said there was an urgent need to establish a dedicated guarantee fund for poor patients. For the time being, doctors working in the capital's numerous hospitals have founded the Guarantee Programme for Emergency Cases.