Poor patients still lack needed funds
VietNamNet Bridge – A Governmental decision to support impoverished people suffering from serious illness came into effect six months ago. However, many patients, especially those who live in rural areas, are still struggling to access funding helping them receive treatment in bigger cities with more advanced healthcare.
La Hu minority ethnic people take a medical examination in a clinic in Bum To Commune in the northern province of Lai Chau's Muong Te District. Many patients, especially those who live in rural areas, are still struggling to access funding helping them receive treatment in bigger cities with more advanced healthcare.
The funding initiative, issued last March, stipulated that support would be offered to patients living in disadvantaged circumstances, ethnic minorities, beneficiaries of social welfare and residents of social care centres. The plan stated that money would be provided for travel, food and a proportion of hospital fees in order to ease the financial burden for those with serious illnesses such as cancer, kidney failure and heart disease who were forced to go to central hospitals regularly for long-term treatment. The money would be taken from local funding sources and distributed to those in need.
However, a Viet Nam News investigation has revealed that both patients and representatives from health agencies have very little or no idea about the policy.
"No one has told me about it. My son and I have to ride 45km from my hometown to the hospital and hire a room to rest after each round of therapy," said Nguyen Thu Dung, a patient at the National Cancer Hospital in Ha Noi who lives in neighbouring Vinh Phuc Province.
Dung, who has throat cancer, said she had to go to hospital every three months for check-ups and treatment for at least three days at a time. She estimated the cost of travelling, accommodation, food and treatment was about one million dong for every trip to the capital. As a farmer earning a low income, the cost is barely manageable.
"I'm lucky that I'm strong enough to travel by motorbike. Many people here are so weak that they have to take a taxi, while others choose buses for a cheaper price," Dung said.
Dr Nguyen Huu Dung of Ha Noi-based Bach Mai Hospital's Artificial Kidney Department said that about 600 patients with serious illness have been undergoing treatment for six years or more in the hospital.
"A sick patient living in a rural area needs two or three relatives to accompany them here. They have to travel back and forth for hundreds of kilometres to receive regular kidney filtration. As a result, they usually cut down on their meals to save money.
"The supportive policy should be implemented as soon as possible, or patients will die of malnutrition and exhaustion instead of their diseases," he warned.
Nguyen Hoang Long, vice head of the Ministry of Health's Planning and Finance Department said to Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper that funds for poor patients were previously used to help pay hospital fees, but the system was no longer used because these people should be able to receive support using their health insurance cards.
The ministry has required cities and provinces to re-examine funds and balance the State budget to conduct the policy. Local authorities must report to the ministries of Health and Finance if there is a cash shortfall, he said.