On June 29, the Ministry of Health (MOH) convened a meeting to discuss the lack of drugs, medical materials and equipment.

The reports from 55 healthcare departments and central hospitals showed that the lack of drugs and medical equipment is occurring at 2 of three units, especially the drugs (82 percent in localities and 57 percent at central hospitals). The drugs in short supply are antibiotics for severely ill patients, psychotropic, ophthalmology, and cardiovascular drugs, drugs to treat hypertension, dengue, and traditional medicine.

Seventy-four percent of units reported they lack biological products and chemicals, mainly related to testing, while 40 percent of units lack equipment.

Lan said: “Hospitals have been dealt a very strong blow, which affects everything, from personnel, to medicine, to supplies."

During Covid-19, drug bids were organized and some pharmacy firms won bids. However, over the last two years of Covid-19, the number of patients dropped sharply, so hospitals canceled procurement plans. As a result, drug importers had to destroy expired drugs. 

Lan, who is also Chair of the HCM City Pharmacy Association, pointed out an unreasonable current bidding mechanism, under which drugs chosen by hospitals are drugs with the lowest prices.

The lowest winning price will be used as next year's planned price and this year's winning drug prices must be lower than the planned price. So, the drug prices must be cheaper year after year. 

“This is an unreasonable mechanism,” Lan said. “The optimal goal of bidding is that patients can use high-quality drugs at the most reasonable prices."

Also according to Lan, drug ‘A’ won a bid in a locality at the lowest price, but some months later, the winning price of the same drug in another locality was lower. In this case, social insurance agencies accept to make payments with the lower price. 

The Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed that many drug suppliers hesitated to attend bids because of the complicated procedures and the principle that winners are those who offer the lowest prices.

Lan said that after scandals related to the leaders of the healthcare sector and CDCs, hospitals and medical centers’ leaders turned cautious and did not dare make procurements, fearing they may violate regulations. As a result, the lack of drugs, biological products and materials is occurring throughout the country.

Linh Giao