SOCIETY IN BRIEF 19/12
Protecting Vietnamese workers overseas; Gov't cracks down on food safety; Hepza workers' Tet bonuses revealed; Conjoined twin girls face separation; ADB’s US$212 mil loan for safe water project
Protecting Vietnamese workers overseas
A conference promoting safe migration for Vietnamese workers was held in Hanoi on December 18.
The event—jointly organised by the Department of Overseas Labour, the International Migration Organisation (IMO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO)—introduced participants to some of the Vietnamese progammes informing and protecting the rights and benefits of workers in foreign countries.
Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MoLISA) Nguyen Thanh Hoa said about 80,000 Vietnamese people are sent to work abroad every year.
International employment migration is increasingly popular, delivering great benefits to the workers themselves as well as the originating and employing countries, he added.
MOLISA has cooperated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and representative offices in different countries to investigate employment policies, demand cooperative employment agreements, and protect legal rights of Vietnamese workers.
To date, many such agreements have been signed between Vietnam and a number of countries and territories, including Malaysia, the Republic of Korea (RoK), Taiwan (China), Japan, Laos, Qatar, Russia, Bulgaria, and Canada. Some Management Boards of Overseas Labour have also been established to handle problems arising for Vietnamese workers.
IMO representative Jobst Koehler suggested that optimising the benefits of the migration process requires empowering workers to ensure safe migration. They need to be adequately informed about the legal and official channels that can help protect their rights.
The Vietnamese government has passed crucial measures to boost legal employment migration and guard worker safety abroad.
These measures include founding a Migrant Resource Centre (MRC), implementing the ‘Triangle’ project to prevent migrant worker exploitation, and empowering female migrant workers in particular.
Gov't cracks down on food safety
As food poisoning fatalities increase, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan asked the Ministry of Health to step up monitoring on food safety.
Nhan required the ministry to come up with concrete goals to reform food processing and transporting and define different demand for different goods, such as livestock and poultry meat, vegetables, jams and Chinese sausage.
Nhan instructed the Ministry of Health to join hands with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Industrial and Trade and Ministry of Information and Communication to edit detailed plans of the crackdown and submit them to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for approval before tomorrow.
Nhan also asked the Ministry of Health to preside over the action month for food safety and hygiene, which will fall in April and May next year.
In the first nine months of 2012, the country saw more than 90 cases of food poisoning. A total of 2,500 people were hospitalised and 17 of them died, according to uncompleted statistics from the Ministry of Health's Viet Nam Food Administration.
Hepza workers' Tet bonuses revealled
A number of domestic consumer goods production enterprises have implemented a Tet (Lunar New Year) ceiling bonus of of around VND400 million (over US$19,000), according to a report from HCM City Industrial Zones and Export Processing Zones Authority (Hepza).
The domestic enterprises' lowest bonus is VND2.14 million, said Deputy Chief of Hepza Nguyen Tan Dinh. Meanwhile, the foreign enterprises' bonuses range from VND2.3 million to VND217.3 million.
Employees in the garment and shoe sectors receive VND3.4 million on average, while those in the electrical and electronics field get VND5 million, food production workers receive VND2.5 million and mechanics employees are allotted VND3.55 million, according to statistics from about 20 percent of Hepza enterprises. (The remainder have not yet submitted reports).
As for minimum wage, the Government recently announced that a new minimum will take effect in January, which will be up to VND300,000 ($14) more than the current rate per month. Dinh said this will not be a problem for foreign enterprises because they already paid workers more, but domestic enterprises might feel the pinch.
According to reports, 79 enterprises in the city's Industrial Zones and Export Processing Zones have reduced their production capacity this year and stopped dozens of projects prematurely, leaving 1,400 workers unemployed.
Many enterprises seek to employ trained workers or new graduates from vocational training schools aged 18 to 25. Meanwhile, there are a number of enterprises that cannot employ workers due to their weak preferential policies, low salaries and inability to provide employees with opportunities for career advancement.
More than 600 enterprises have distributed Tet bonuses this year. Those working for companies that cannot afford to do so will receive a Tet gift from the Hepza, Dinh said.
The organisation will also offer bus tickets to 6,000 trade-union staff and workers who have not returned home for Tet for many years. In addition, some enterprises will donate gifts and organize lotteries whereby employees can earn bonuses.
Conjoined twin girls face separation
Doctors at Children's Hospital 2 and the HCM City-based Heart Institute are separating conjoined twin girls today.
Born in August to a couple from the central province of Ha Tinh, the girls have separate heads, arms and legs but conjoin one liver and heart.
Truong Quang Dinh, deputy director of the Children's Hospital 2, said twins attached at the heart presented the most difficult cases for surgery. However, he deemed the girls healthy enough to experience the grueling operation, which means over 10 hours in the operating room.
The twins have gained six kg after four months of hospitalisation. They now weigh 9.5kg.
Their mother said she found out the twins would be conjoined during a routine ultrasound. However, she decided to continue the pregnancy and separate them afterwards.
Dinh said conjoined twins occurred in one in 50,000 births.
ADB’s US$212 mil loan for safe water project
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide US$212 million to continue a project improving water service delivery to more than three million Vietnamese people.
94,000 households in six cities and provinces will receive piped water for the first time.
“Clean water is crucial to development,” said Amy Leung, ADB Southeast Asia Department’s Urban and Water Division Director. “The government recognises that access to clean water can support local economic development and improve the quality of life and health of people.”
The funding is the second tranche of a US$1 billion loan framework approved in 2011, designed to deliver an estimated 500,000 poor households their first-ever piped water connection. Vietnam achieved 92 percent overall coverage for urban water supply in 2006—albeit with uneven service levels—but over the next 10 years, more than 15 million people will receive improved water service under ADB financing.
This tranche of the financing will fund water supply infrastructure in Binh Duong Province, Dak Lak Province, Da Nang City, Hai Phong City, Thua Thien-Hue Province, and Quang Tri Province. Water supply companies will undertake subprojects, which include the construction of water production plants, pumping stations, and transmission and distribution pipelines. Under the second tranche, nine water companies will borrow to prepare an investment project for financing under a subsequent tranche.
Two Vietnamese Government decrees transformed water services from a social to an economic commodity in recognition of the role clean water plays in the country’s economic advancement. The progressive water legislation, supported by ADB, requires water supply companies to operate on full cost recovery and to reduce non-revenue water—which is lost to leaks and other inefficiencies—from 2010’s 30 percent to 15 percent by 2025.
IT helps improve healthcare quality at hospitals
Advanced information technology systems have helped hospitals in Viet Nam improve their healthcare services, according to the head of the Medical Services Administration.
Dr Luong Ngoc Khue spoke at a two-day conference held in HCM City last week on healthcare services. It was organised by the department in collaboration with the European Union.
A survey of 34 hospitals in 48 provinces and cities nationwide showed that only 27 of them had applied technology applications to improve their healthcare services, according to Khue.
Dr Tang Chi Thuong, the head of the Peadiatric Hospital No.1, said his staff had used patient-record management software and e-prescription software.
E-prescriptions allow doctors to write and send complete and accurate prescriptions that help reduce potential errors, including illegible handwriting, formula errors, dosage questions and potential allergy and drug interaction risks, according to Thuong.
With the use of IT, hospital management can also monitor prescription usage and requests by doctors. A prescription-prompt system has also been installed.
Technology applications have helped the hospital shorten the waiting time for check-ups and tests and save on costs. Many patients have responded positively to the use of IT.
Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, who brought her 10-month daughter to the hospital for treatment, said that testing procedures were done quickly and test results were returned promptly.
She added that prescriptions for her daughter were written legibly and easy to read, and that pharmacists at hospitals did not make mistakes when filling out prescriptions.
Thuong said the hospital had invested a great deal of capital in setting up technology infrastructure, including computers, servers and cable networks throughout its system. They have also hired IT staff.
Hospitals without much capital should install IT step-by-step and work with IT companies to help them invest in technology infrastructure and hire IT staff from these companies.
He said it took about two years for hospitals to use the systems in an effective manner.
The Health Ministry said it would establish an IT department within the ministry in Ha Noi and set up offices at several hospitals in the country to improve management and quality.
The ministry said it had asked the Government to allocate funds for a project that would help set up electronic record-keeping at hospitals nationwide next year.
EU grants $13 million to support healthcare
The European Union has disbursed US$13 million this year to support the health sector in Viet Nam under its three-year support programme.
The programme, worth nearly $51 million in total, aims to improve the Vietnamese public health system, making it more efficient and equitable.
Infant mortality rates and malnutrition in children under five are expected to decline as a result, and the proportion of deliveries attended by health staff will likely increase. The project will focus on the nine poor provinces of Bac Kan, Dien Bien, Gia Lai, Lai Chau, Kien Giang, Kon Tum, Son La, Vinh Long and Yen Bai.