Rampant doctor misconduct found in Vietnam metro

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Patients at the Ho Chi Minh City Traumatology and Orthopedics Hospital. By Thanh Tung 

Ho Chi Minh City health inspectors have exposed longstanding misconduct at two major hospitals that has cost patients billions of dong.

The HCMC Health Department announced Monday (October 7) that investigations at Binh Dan Hospital and the HCMC Traumatology and Orthopedics Hospital had found "a series of wrongdoings" at both establishments.

The investigations started last May after the department received written complaints from doctors at the hospitals and following a Vietweek exposé last year.

Total losses caused by the wrongdoings have yet to be reckoned, but inspectors estimated that the losses are worth billions of dongs.

According to inspectors, around 70 percent of surgeries performed at the HCMC Traumatology and Orthopedics Hospital between 2010 and 2012 were "service surgeries," and the rest were "schedule surgeries."

"Schedule surgeries" refers to surgeries arranged according to the hospital's schedule and conducted during working hours, which cost less, and "service surgeries" means that patients pay more so that they will not have to wait in a long line for their turn to undergo a surgery.

Normally, service surgeries are allowed if they are performed after the hospitals' set working hours (usually after 5 p.m.).

However, inspectors found that doctors at the HCMC Traumatology and Orthopedics Hospital spend most of their time performing service surgeries.

These service surgeries are conducted during working hours from Monday to Friday, which means the doctors are stealing time and facilities for their own profit, inspectors said.

Of the nine doctors that performed the most service surgeries, two are deputy directors of the hospital, according to inspectors.

They also found violations at the hospital relating to X-rays. Accordingly, a number of doctors connived with technicians to use small-size films for patients but then charge them the price of large-size films, and take more than one X-ray on a single frame of film and then charge patients the price of more than one frame.

Inspectors estimated that doctors and technicians pocketed around VND3.3 billion (US$156,400) from such X-ray film violations.

Meanwhile, violations at Binh Dan Hospital were mostly conducted by its former director, Nguyen Chi Hung, and some of his subordinates.

According to inspectors, the hospital's management board willingly allowed overseas trips by its staff using funds from the State budget; more than 70 percent of its officials have taken overseas trips without the approval of the Health Department and the municipal People's Committee.

Under Hung's management, the hospital wasted around VND1.7 billion ($80,500) purchasing medical equipment, most of which hasn't been used at all.

Hung and his accomplices illegally signed contracts with outside companies and individuals to buy expensive medical equipment and open drug stores, and then pocketed the "commissions" from the contracts, inspectors said.

Inspectors also established that from 2009 to 2012, the hospital illegally connived with several private companies to offer test and scanning services using medical equipment owned by the companies.

Many doctors were encouraged to offer scanning services for patients even when it was not necessary. Each doctor who asked patients to use the ultrasound and X-ray services earned VND40,000-50,000/patient ($1.9-2.3).

Hung, who retired recently, and four others, including two deputy directors and the chief accountant of the hospital, shared more than VND3 billion ($142,200) earned from the activity.

The HCMC Health Department has ordered the hospital to seize the money and submit it to the department.

Inspectors also found that the hospital signed work contracts with six doctors and pharmacists who are not qualified enough for the job.

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