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Lure of lucre: Public hospitals face brain drain

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Public hospitals are facing a “brain drain” with many doctors and pharmacists moving to private health facilities attracted by their high salaries.

 

A patient at a hospital in Đồng Nai Province. Many doctors at public hospitals in the province have quit due to low salaries. — VNA/VNS Photo Lê Xuân

 

They include many working as department heads and deputy heads at province-level hospitals.

Since last year 131 doctors and pharmacists at public hospitals in Đồng Nai and Bình Phước provinces alone put in their papers.

The Đồng Nai  Health Department said 108 doctors have quite public health units.

Meanwhile, the Bình Phước Department of Health said 23 doctors have quit, all because they expected better salaries.

Besides, they were unhappy with the facilities at their hospitals, they said.

A doctor who had been working at the Bình Phước General Hospital since 1997 before quitting recently told Tuổi Trẻ that he had moved because the salary was too low.

He said his salary had been VNĐ7 million (US$307) a month including allowances.

The province had been promising to help him and others buy land for building a house since he had begun to work at the hospital, but it had yet to happen, he said.

Now, at a private hospital, his income has doubled, he added.

According to the department, it has been facing great difficulty in hiring doctors and other health workers, especially well-qualified ones, since 2016. Against a need of 146, it has managed to find only 21.

In Đồng Nai, 22 doctors and pharmacists have quit just this year.

Last year Thống Nhất General Hospital had lost the largest number of doctors (23) followed by the Đồng Nai General Hospital (18).

Dr Phạm Văn Dũng, director of Thống Nhất, said the low salaries are blamed for the exodus, with only a few quitting for other reasons.

The hospital has recruited doctors but has been unable to make good the shortage, he said.

It is trying to ensure a better working environment and higher salaries to retain its doctors, he reveal.

Dr Ngô Đức Tuấn, director of the Đồng Nai General Hospital, said many of the doctors who quit were young and not financially well-off and so moved to private hospitals for higher salaries.

Dr Phan Huy Anh Vũ, deputy head of the province health department, said a doctor gets around VNĐ10 million ($439) at a public hospital compared to VNĐ20–VNĐ50 million ($877-$2,192) at private hospitals.

There is a likelihood of more and more doctors quitting public hospitals for private ones because there is a boom in private health facilities in the province, he said.

Dr Huỳnh Minh Hoàn, the department head, told Lao Động Đồng Nai (Đồng Nai Labour) newspaper that many of the doctors quitting their jobs are senior people who had been sent for professional training and so the exodus is affecting the quality of healthcare as well as disease prevention.

According to senior health officials in the two provinces, there should be comprehensive policies to attract and keep doctors at public hospitals.

To ensure a steady supply of doctors in Đồng Nai, a medical university should be built, Vũ said.

The province plans to merge the Đồng Nai Medical College with the Đồng Nai University, he said, adding that 50 doctors are needed each year to replace retiring ones.

 

Source: VNS

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