Ministry wants fresh medical graduates to work in outlying areas

Young doctors give free-of-charge health examination to residents of Sin Ho district in the northern mountainous province of Lai Chau (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – New medical graduates could be required to
work for three to five years at healthcare centres in outlying regions to meet
a critical lack of doctors and help improve healthcare services there.

Pham Van Tac, Director of the Personnel Department under the
Ministry of Health, said the proposed initiative would require graduates to
work at district and commune-level healthcare centres, particularly in Vietnam’s
62 most disadvantaged districts.

“In the future, the requirement could be included in a law on
social responsibilities and obligations of medical workers,” Tac told the Nhan
Dan (People’s) newspaper, adding that this would be a condition for a
license to practice medicine.

In 2013, the Health Ministry launched a pilot programme for young
doctors to volunteer in disadvantaged areas. Last month, after undergoing
specialised training, 78 volunteers from central and provincial hospitals went
to work in poor communes and districts of four northern provinces – Lao Cai, Son
La, Bac Kan and Dien Bien.

According to the Health Ministry, the public healthcare sector in
Vietnam’s 62 poorest districts faces a shortage of about 600 doctors in 15

Director of the Cao Bang province Health Department  Luc Van Dai,
said that the province had 199 commune healthcare centres but only 90 had
facilities meeting national standards, 40 needed more doctors and some didn’t
even have one doctor. All the district general hospitals in the province lacked

For example, the Bac Ha district General Hospital in northern Lao
Cai province has not received any new doctors in the last ten years, and some
good ones have left. Vice director of the hospital Nguyen Nhu Tuan said there
was a critical shortage of doctors for important departments like cardiology,
and the hospital cannot perform half the treatments required by the health
ministry of district hospitals.

A shortage of high-quality medical workers has been blamed for
public mistrust in grassroots healthcare, resulting in overcrowding at
higher-level hospitals, according to the ministry.

[Young doctors volunteer to work in poor districts]

Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said that working at
grassroots healthcare centres in disadvantaged areas could offer young doctors
practical lessons in various diseases and give them the chance to implement
clinical treatments.

“Without strengthening grassroots healthcare, Vietnam’s healthcare
sector can’t address major issues like non-communicable diseases, child
malnutrition, life span and the height and weight of Vietnamese,” she said.

“If Vietnam can improve primary healthcare by sending high-quality
staff to grassroots facilities, they will earn the trust of local people. They
will use local healthcare centres instead of flocking to central-level
hospitals,” she added.

Vu Thi Ly, a new graduate from Vietnam University of Traditional
Medicine, said she agreed with Minister Tien about the advantages of working in
primary healthcare centres. “We are aware of the disadvantages, too. For
example, poor facilities and infrastructure put higher pressure on medical
workers and patients, especially in emergencies,” she said. “Working in remote,
disadvantaged areas should be optional instead of compulsory.”

Ly also said that policies for medical workers, particularly
payment and allowances, should be improved to attract them to the public
healthcare system.

Nguyen Lan Phuong, a new graduate from the Vietnam Military
Medical University, told Viet Nam News that medical students have longer
training programmes than other students – six years instead of four – and are
then required to do an internship of up to 18 months, part of which they have
to fund themselves.

“If medical graduates are required to work in remote,
disadvantaged areas to earn a licence, this means we have more challenges to
overcome. The challenge will surely cost time, money and sweat,” she said.-VNA

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