Losing trust in those entrusted with saving lives

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  Blood being drawn from a patient for testing at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Last week Hanoi's Hoai Duc General Hospital was found copying and handing out the same blood test results to different patients./PHOTO: THANH TUNG

Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881), a Swiss philosopher, once said: "Society lives by faith and develops by science."

Going by this statement, Vietnamese society has had its faith badly shaken over many years and people have become increasingly cynical over the years.

Where can they place their trust when corruption plagues almost every corner of the society, distorting everything from bananas to blood test results?

Over the past few weeks, reports of corrupt police officers and officials have been followed by news items about tainted goods that greedy producers and sellers are making and selling to earn higher profits, consequences on consumers be damned.

We are told that the rice noodles we eat almost every day contain optical brighteners used in detergents and cleaners. Bananas are stimulated with chemicals to ripen quickly. Beef is suspected of being made with rubber.

There is corruption in the healthcare sector too. Many studies have pointed out that corruption is commonplace in public health facilities including hospitals and clinics, with patients and their families paying money and giving gifts to employees doctors, nurses and cleaners included to receive decent care and services.

But this practice is not the worst kind of corruption in the sector, compared to what was exposed last week: a public hospital in Hanoi making multiple copies of blood test results and distributing them among different patients.

According to initial findings by investigators with the Ministry of Public Security, about half of nearly 2,240 blood test results that the Hoai Duc Hospital gave to its patients between last July and this May were similar. Around 1,000 of the similar results were fake.

It seems that the fraud was being perpetrated on unsuspecting patients to save time and costs, and to appropriate insurance fees. Police said insurers paid the hospital over VND60 million (US$2,800) for the tests.

This is the worst kind of crime and cannot be forgiven. The hospital's  leaders and employees without compunction cheated people who trusted them to cure their sicknesses. 

Had it not been for some of the hospital's employees who were courageous enough to file complaints with the police, the fraud would have not been discovered.

Health officials will possibly claim that the case of Hoai Duc Hospital was just an exception and that such practices are not common, which is the usual response when a particularly appalling case of corruption is discovered. 

However, in a corruption-driven society where faith has become something of a luxury that people can ill afford, they will wonder if similar things are happening at other health clinics, but are yet to be exposed. 

The people cannot be blamed if they enter a hospital and look at people working there, including doctors whose help they need, with suspicion, wondering when and what the hospital's staff will do to harm them.

On August 7, police started an investigation into the Hoai Duc Hospital. With the promises made by the Ministry of Health, people have no doubt that wrongdoers will be identified and punished.

But what is the price we will pay for losing trust in each other and who will take responsibility for this loss?

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