Several Mekong Delta provinces in southern Vietnam are facing a dire shortage of qualified medicine practitioners, as doctors have been leaving public hospitals for private clinics en masse, citing low incomes as the main cause for quitting.
In Vinh Long, for instance, as many as 13 doctors have left the provincial general hospital between the beginning of 2017 and April this year, according to Van Cong Minh, deputy director of the province’s health department.
“This is not to mention ten other doctors who already submitted their resignation letters,” Minh added.
Likewise, 33 doctors have quit the general hospital of Can Tho, the Mekong Delta hub, and 19 in Hau Giang Province, in the year 2016 to date.
The figure in Ca Mau Province is even more worrying, with 105 medical personnel, including 97 doctors and eight pharmacists resigning from the province’s public health facilities from 2015 to March 2018, according to a data from the provincial health department.
Most of those doctors have said they had to quit public hospitals to be able to “pursue higher education” or move to work at facilities that are much nearer to their families.
But leaders of public hospitals in the region are certain that these are not the real causes.
“Doctors have left for private hospitals, where they would enjoy much better incomes than the public clinics,” Minh, the health official from Vinh Long, said.
Moreover, many public health facilities in Vietnam have below-standard working conditions, but doctors are always under high pressure due to patient overcrowding.
“Junior doctors in public hospitals only receive VND3-4 million [US$132-176] a month, while private hospitals are willing to pay a good doctor a few dozen million dong,” he added. (VND10 million = $440)
Huynh Minh Phu, director of the Can Tho General Hospital, said the clinic is still recruiting new doctors with better incentives as an immediate solution to the problem.
“For the long run, [we] aim to adopt financial autonomy [to be able to pay doctors higher], and implement more hi-tech services to increase our revenue,” Phu said.
Sharing this view, doctor Bui Duc Van, director of the Ca Mau General Hospital, also suggested that doctors should be paid based on their position, not on seniority as currently regulated.