Knowing customers’ expectations to be examined early, Tan advertised quickly, "For examinations at outside clinics, you should pay only 30,000 dong and 100,000 dong for tips. It will be more expensive if you go for medical examinations in the hospital."
Asked about taking examinations in hospital, broker Tan offered a price of VND300,000 (US$14) and said, "You will be examined immediately as well as given ultrasounds and blood tests by specialist doctors".
As the final price abated, the broker called for a doctor named Uyen. After a short conversation with the doctor, he gave patients her phone number and guided to go upstairs to arrive at the Department of Surgery 4. Along the corridor, many people were waiting for examinations but doctor Uyen quickly stepped out from the examination room and let ‘favored’ patients in.
After examination, doctor Uyen wrote an indication form for ultrasound test and said, "You can get tested in the hospital, or you can also find the guy who brought you here, he will guide you."
Tan then took his clients to the ultrasound room at 48B Nguyen Huy Luong Street. The staff there charged the service for VND100,000 but without any receipt.
Earlier, on May 2, in the role of a patient, Tuoi Tre journalists were also approached by another man named Dung, standing in front of the number registration counter.
“If you want examination sooner, give me 100,000 dong. The charge for whole service pack is 500,000 dong. Then, you can get an immediate examination without waiting for taking order numbers for your turn," Dung said.
Broker Dung took us to the back of the waiting room block to meet a nurse named Phuong, who was working in the Department of Internal Medicine 2. She took our personal health records, received the examination fee from Dung and then brought all our documents to the number registration counter.
After just a few minutes, we entered the examination room while hundreds of other patients were still waiting for their order numbers called. Phuong also gave us her phone number and asked us to pass it to those who want to get examinations without the wait.
"It takes more money if you work with those go-betweens", she said.
Broker Bao (L) in Tumor Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
Hospital guards working as brokers
At the high-tech treatment area of Binh Dan Hospital at 408 Dien Bien Phu Street in District 10, we found that some hospital guards were working as brokers.
Around 7:30 am on April 24, hundreds of patients were lining up stuffily in the hall and waiting for check-ups at the high-tech treatment area. A hospital guard named Le Quoc Cuong asked us to pay fees, received health records, handed in to the registration counter and waited for our order number. After 10 minutes, we received the number of 4042.
Seeing us becoming impatient, Cuong suggested that we wait for him to get another number. Going somewhere for a few minutes, he returned and gave us number 4016. Five minutes after that, in front of the frustrated faces of other patients, we got our examination.
After we were assigned to get a gastroscopy, Cuong led us upstairs to hand in our documents. With his help, we get the test sooner and just had to wait about half an hour to get the results, although the notice board noted that it would take an hour.
We completed all the tests in the examination procedure at 10:00 am, much earlier than other patients who arrived at the hospital in the same time. Being asked about money, Cuong said, "It's up to you!" We gave him VND50,000 and he accepted immediately.
Returning to Binh Dan Hospital in the following days, we found some weaknesses existing in the stage of delivering order numbers. Since there are not one but six examination rooms for various diseases, it’s really difficult for patients to verify the accuracy and fairness of delivering numbers. Moreover, the hospital guard supervisor is simultaneously the person who directly arranges order numbers. Therefore, by paying money to guards, some patients do not need to wait for their numbers.
Broker Hung (holding the paper sheet) is luring patients in front of the gate of the Hospital of Ho Chi Minh City University for Medicine and Pharmacy (Photo: Tuoi Tre)