Institutional bottlenecks have caused shortages in drugs, machinery and supplies at public hospitals in recent months.

The government has made urgent decisions to ‘rescue’ the healthcare sector. However, problems that have existed for a long time are still causing serious consequences.

In 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, the shortage of drugs, machines, chemicals and medical biological products became more serious at public medical establishments. Hospital leaders complained, but it has not been settled.

According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), reports from 34 local Departments of Health, 21 central public hospitals and two hospitals belonging to medical universities show that 40 of 55 health departments and central hospitals lack medicines. 

The medicines include antibiotics used to treat critically ill patients, narcotic drugs, psychotropic drugs, cardiovascular drugs, antihypertensive drugs, anti-dengue drugs, ophthalmic drugs and traditional medicine.

Reporting to the National Assembly's supervisory delegation in August 2022, MOH said the major reason behind the drug and medical material shortage was the officials’ fear of violating laws. They dare not make procurement deals because they fear they may break the law and face lawsuits.

As a result, patients who use public health services or have health insurance policies have had to spend their own money to buy drugs. 

Meanwhile, special hospitals at national levels such as Vietnam-Germany Friendship Hospital, Bach Mai and Cho Ray have had to restrict the numbers of patients they receive.

Many local newspapers have rung the alarm bell over the lack of drugs, machinery, and materials and biological products at public hospitals, pointing out that the problem lies in unreasonable regulations.

As legal documents and regulations are inadequate and impractical and overlap, public medical establishments cannot implement them. 

Some hospital leaders would rather cancel procurement deals than face the risk of being prosecuted for violating laws on bidding.

Some questions remain unanswered. How did the same public hospitals and physicians obtain enough medical equipment and drugs in the past, but cannot now?

Why did the same public hospitals and physicians allow the drug shortage to occur on such a large scale? Should the blame be put on the management scheme, or human greed?

Over the past decade, management philosophy has been associated with "building a constructive government". This is the core point of view that paves the way for the country to develop.

Nguyen Huy Vien