Hospital cafeterias and grocery stores around Ho Chi Minh City have been discovered selling goods at exorbitant prices, raising concern amongst patients and their family members.
Snacks, milk, and a variety of other beverages become necessities for patients and their family members should they ever find themselves staying in hospital.
However, these types of products that have been found for sale at prices much higher than customers would usually pay, causing the concern.
Hospital cafeterias and grocery stores are usually run by separate businesses which have won a bidding process and signed contracts with the hospitals they are operating in.
A survey conducted by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters showed that a package of six Fami soymilk boxes sold at VND45,000 (US$2) inside one of the hospital grocery stores, while its usual retail price is only VND28,000 ($1.25).
Similarly, one type of bird’s nest beverage sells at VN54,000 ($2.41) per six cans inside regular markets, but was offered at VND80,000 ($3.56) at several infirmaries.
Family members of patients, like Lan, from the southern province of Dong Nai for example, who is taking care of her husband at the Oncology Hospital, are only aware of the inflated prices once told by other caretakers.
Others, namely Vo Thi Lan, from the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang, have no other choice than to empty their pockets on the expensive goods, as they cannot be away from their sick relatives for extended periods.
The Tuoi Tre survey also indicated that Hung Vuong Hospital, in District 5, had the most outrageous prices for common products sold at its cafeteria.
Efforts from the hospitals?
According to Hoang Thi Diem Tuyen, director of the infirmary, once signing a contract to operate inside a hospital premise, the store must commit to not selling goods at prices more than five percent higher than nearby supermarkets.
Managers of the hospital have reminded retailers on several occasions but no change seems to have been made, Tuyet continued.
The infirmary is seeking a new partner to run the cafeteria, the director said, adding that a grocery store could also be constructed and operated by the hospital itself to save patients from being ripped off.
Several vending machines have been placed in the hospital in order to offer beverages at an affordable price, she said.
It is difficult for cafeterias to sell their goods as cheaply as in supermarkets, Vo Duy Thuc, a finance official at the Oncology Hospital, assessed, but added that a twofold or threefold price increase is unacceptable.
“I will order the operators to adjust their price list. Regular monitoring will also be carried out to ensure product quality. The cafeteria will be shut down if any violation is detected,” Thuc asserted.
One store operator at another Ho Chi Minh City hospital said that they had been forced to raise the price to compensate for the large amount spent to win the bid.
Several infirmaries appear to focus on the highest bidder, resulting in contractors having to spend big in order to secure a location inside hospitals, he elaborated.