Vietnam health minister refuses to resign under mounting pressure

Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien on Tuesday said she did not think of resigning as the health sector is focusing all efforts on combating measles, treating patients, and minimizing deaths

Heath Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien speaks at a press conference in Hanoi on April 29, 2014.

Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien on Tuesday said she did not think of resigning as the health sector is focusing all efforts on combating measles, treating patients, and minimizing deaths.  

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Minister Tien made the assertion at yesterday’s press conference in Hanoi when replying to reporters’ questions about her responsibility in coping with the disease that has killed over 130 children nationwide since late last year.

“As a mother, have you extended your apology to the parents whose children have died of measles, and have you thought of resigning?” a reporter from Lao Dong (Labor) newspaper asked Minister Tien.

The minister replied, “As a mother, I would like to send my deep condolences to all parents whose children have died of measles.”

“Sincerely speaking, I don’t think of a resignation at this moment. Currently, the entire health sector is focusing all efforts on saving children from dying from measles,” Minister Tien added. 

“In this position [as Minister of Health], I put the country’s and people’s interest above all else,” Minister Tien said. “If I no longer hold this position in the future, I will do another job that is useful to society.”

Media reports have implied that the minister should resign while appeals for her to step down have also gone viral on social media, following an outbreak of measles in Vietnam with her ministry’s failure to contain it.

Minister Tien also said that her heart went out to the babies who died of measles.

Twenty children with measles are in critical conditions at the Central Pediatrics Hospital and six other child patients are in the same situation at Bach Mai Hospital, both located in Hanoi, the minister said.

She expressed her hope that these children will be cured by doctors who are mobilizing all possible resources to save them.

Asked by Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law) newspaper about the most important lesson the minister can draw from the ongoing measles pandemic, she answered that lesson is the health sector has not effectively conducted media activities to boost vaccination against measles to prevent more deaths. 

“If our media campaigns had been effective, the number of children vaccinated against the contagion would be higher by now,” she added.

The health sector has learned from its shortcomings in disseminating information on combating measles, in easing measles patient overload at hospitals, and in preventing cross-infection between children with measles and those with other diseases, she said.

According to the latest report from the health ministry, measles has spread to 61 of the country’s 63 provinces and cities, affecting 3,751 people as of Monday.

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