Vietnam aging population poses challenges for healthcare system

Thanh Nien News

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As its population is getting aged rapidly, Vietnam is facing the burden of increased healthcare costs, while it lacks healthcare infrastructure specific for the elderly, heard a conference on Monday.
Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon Online newspaper quoted Professor Pham Thang, director of the National Geriatric Hospital, as telling the conference that an old people’s healthcare cost is often eight-ten times higher than that of a young person.
Old people account for 10 percent of Vietnam’s population, but they use more than 50 percent of the country’s annual healthcare cost, he said.
According to Nguyen Trong Dam, deputy minister of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, 95 percent of old people have poor health and lack knowledge about diseases prevention.
Many do not have periodical health checks-up and only have them when their condition becomes serious, so the costs are high, Dam said, adding that some 30 percent of old people do not have health insurance.
In the meantime, there is only one hospital majored in geriatrics and very few geriatric wards at other clinics, although the elderly asks for very different healthcare, according to Thang.
He suggested each Vietnamese hospital, except pediatric ones, establish a geriatric ward with sickbeds accounting for some 10 percent of its capacity and relevant infrastructures, while medical universities have geriatrics departments.
Vietnam is among countries with rapid aging population, due to decreased birth rate and increased life expectancy – from 40 years old in 1960 to 73 years old in 2010, Nguyen Van Tan, deputy chief of the General Office for Population Family Planning, said at the conference.
Tan quoted the General Statistics Office’s survey as saying that more than 70 percent of the aged population has to work to feed themselves besides their family’s support; the rest live on pension or social welfare.
About 18 percent live below the poverty line and more than one-fourth of interviewed people said they felt that their living standard was decreasing, he said.

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