Beds at state-funded hospitals cost more

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Poor patients in Ho Chi Minh City have opted to forgo hospitalization as state hospitals have been illegally charging money for beds.

The extra fee is not covered by health insurance policies.

An 82 year-old-patient, who usually stays at Nguyen Trai Hospital for cardiology and diabetics treatment, said the number of in-patients had drastically reduced since the new fees.

The woman, who only wanted to be identified as V.T.V., said she had met a man being rushed to the hospital for heart problems. But he asked his children to bring him home after the hospital asked him to pay VND500,000 (US$26) in advance as part of the bed fee.

D.X.C., a 67-year-old patient, said was worried his pension wasn't enough to cover the extra VND20,000 a day for the bed fee.

He has a heart condition and stomach cancer and has been visiting the hospital regularly for years, sometimes staying as long as four to five months. As a insurance card holder, he used to get a bed in the hospital for free.

Nguyen Trai Hospital receives more than VND40 billion a year in government subsidies.

Hung Vuong Hospital, which also receives government support, is charging VND50,000 a sick bed per night.

Some patients paying VND50,000 still sleep in the halls.

Nguyen Van Truong, director of Hung Vuong Hospital, said the extra fee was to help the hospital take better care of the patients by paying for cleaners and guards. 

Truong said patients refusing to pay the fee were still admitted in emergency cases.

Ly Le Thanh, director of Nguyen Trai Hospital, said charging bed fees was "wrong" but the hospital wouldn't be able to cover all its costs otherwise.

Thanh said hospital fees, which include VND3,000 per each check-up and VND10,000 for a bed, were "far out of date."

She said the hospital had to pay power, water and garbage treatment bills, and had to hire people to wash patients' clothes and clean their beds.

The hospital thus began charging bed fees of between VND20,000-35,000 per patient per day last November.

Dinh Thi Lieu, head of the finance and accounting office at the HCMC Health Department, said Nguyen Trai Hospital was built by state funds and was thus not allowed to charge extra fees on its own.

Hung Vuong Hospital was built on a stimulus package, so the director can decide to charge extra on the beds, but only on up to 30 percent of the total beds.

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