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Theft turns rife in Vietnam hospitals

Thursday, January 22, 2015, 17:33 GMT+7
Theft turns rife in Vietnam hospitals

Theft is rampant in hospitals in Vietnam, with thieves cheating patients and their relatives through sophisticated measures such as disguising themselves as medical staff by wearing white blouses and jackets. Even patients who are seriously injured in a road accident, with bandages all over their body, are not free from theft when they are unconscious. In many cases, witnesses could not help because thieves act as if they are husbands, wives, or parents of patients. While taking care of patients lying unconscious on a stretcher, they take all their jewelry and money. Theft cases are heard every few days after patients get up in the morning. Some have lost several hundreds of thousands of dong (VND100,000 = US$4.8). Others lost tens of millions of dong after one night. Since most services and medicines are pre-paid in Vietnamese hospitals, all patients must have money with them during their treatment period. Hospital security forces seem to fail to keep order in the public facilities which receive thousands of patients and relatives a day. A woman whose son was being treated at the Hue Medicine University Hospital in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue recalled that a man often visited her son’s room to ask for drinking water. One day, he snuck into the room to steal her belongings but was stopped by other in-patients who witnessed it. Night-time is when money and assets are ‘most watched’ by thieves in hospitals. Disguising as relatives of patients to steal is the most common ‘method’. Other tricks are more complicated and have been used to cheat many people. Kim Anh, an in-patient at 30-4 Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, said she was once sleeping and was woken up by a strange shadow. Opening her eyes, she saw a woman bending toward her iPad. The woman stammered that, “I have a relative in the emergency ward here, and I just want to borrow your phone to call my family.” Without waiting for a response, the woman immediately stole her way toward the door and left. Loan, a relative of a patient in Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, said she saw a new patient with bandages all over her body being admitted into her son’s ward. She was unconscious. Moments later, a man came by her stretcher and shook her hand, “Hey, darling! Darling! How are you?” When the patient moaned something slightly, he tried to take off her gold ring from her finger but could not because it was tight, Loan said. He sat there for a while and then left. Hours later, the woman became conscious and Loan told her that her husband had come but left after that. But the woman replied, “My husband and I were involved in a traffic accident and he was badly injured. I am not sure if he can recover.” Another patient said the guy was likely a thief, not her husband. Thieves often visit patients who are still under anesthetics to steal from them. Huynh Ngoc Thao from the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap recounted her story when she was conned out of VND24 million ($1,150) in Cho Ray Hospital. When she was waiting for her husband in an operating room, a ‘doctor’ wearing a white jacket came and asked her to buy blood as soon as possible. He took Thao to Hung Vuong Hospital and asked her to give him VND24 million. Ten minutes later, he returned and gave her three invoices with the “Paid” red mark. He took Thao back to Cho Ray and told her the blood would be preserved and forwarded to her husband soon. After that, the ‘doctor’ and the blood he bought never appeared. Police and security staff at the hospital later nabbed two thieves who declared their names as Hoang Van Vuong, 26; and Truong Minh Duong, 23. They are not doctors but had white jackets and “Paid” stamps to fool patients. According to the Hue Central Hospital in Thua Thien-Hue, 23 cases of theft happened there in 2013 and 2014 involving VND120 million ($5,770). However, these were just the cases reported to the management of the hospital, as many other victims did not bother to inform them. Most hospitals admitted they install camera systems for monitoring professionals in wards, not for theft detection. In addition, the large number of visitors is another difficulty. Hospitals are located on vast areas of several hectares and receive around 15,000 patients and relatives a day.

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