Hospital chief accused of severe misconduct

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The Ministry of Health is investigating accusations that the director of a public hospital in Ho Chi Minh City has been abusing her power for her own private gain.

Health minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien told Vietweek Tuesday it had asked inspectors to investigate Lam Hoai Phuong, director of the National Hospital of Odonto-Maxillo-Facial, after seven doctors at the hospital lodged complaints to the ministry.

Phuong, who has held her directorial post since 2006, has long been involved in various forms of misconduct which have wasted money from the state's budget and compromised the health of patients, according to the doctors.

The doctors said Phuong performed surgeries at the hospital with its equipment, but then transferred the patients to her private clinic where she charged them exorbitant fees.

For instance, an 18-year-old patient from Quang Ngai Province named N.T.T. was admitted to the hospital last March to treat a lip-nose deformation. Phuong told the patient's family that the surgery would take place at the hospital but that T. would be transferred to her clinic afterwards.

After the family accepted, on March 19, T. underwent the surgery. The following day, the patient was taken to the Thien My Medical Clinic owned by Phuong. After arriving at the clinic, the family was ordered to pay VND22 million ($1,055) in surgical fees.

A nurse from the hospital has allegedly been in charge of collecting money from patients at Phuong's clinic.

Another 29-year-old patient, T.L. of HCMC, paid up to VND49 million ($2,350) at Phuong's clinic for a surgery performed at the hospital on March 28. However, the bill for the surgery says the patient only paid the hospital VND10 million ($480).

According to the disgruntled doctors, who also hold leadership positions at the hospital, there are 28 patients who underwent surgeries at the hospital who were then transferred to Phuong's clinic.

The doctors proposed that the Ministry of Health investigate all 28 cases to emphatically prove that Phuong, with the help of others, has been committing systematic transgressions.

They said Phuong's malfeasance has caused losses to the state budget and posed risks to the heath of patients who were taken to her clinic before they had recovered from surgeries conducted at the hospital. Had there been complications in any of those cases, the clinic would not have had enough staff or equipment to properly treat the patients, they said.

As of press time, the Thien My Medical Clinic on Nguyen Tieu La Street in District 10 had closed and its signboard had been removed.

When approached by Vietweek, the doctors also accused Phuong of buying Cercon, a metal-free ceramic crown system, worth more than VND2 billion ($96,000) for the hospital in 2010, which has since been abandoned.

They also suspect Phuong of being involved in purchasing certain medical equipment at prices that well exceed the market value, inferring that she may have been involved in embezzlement.

The doctors also accused Phuong of assigning herself to various posts in the hospital's departments and wards in order to boost her personal salary.

Health minister Tien told Vietweek that the ministry would strictly punish Phuong if the accusations against her prove true, adding the alleged wrongdoings have already negatively impacted the doctor's reputation.

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