Ten face charges in blood test scam at Vietnam hospital

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Hoai Duc General Hospital. Photo by Hai Nguyen

Hanoi police Saturday wrapped up a two-month probe and asked prosecutors to press charges against a suspended hospital director and his nine employees for a blood test scam that affected almost a thousand patients.

The investigation was done following an employee's report that alleged that between July last year and last May the hospital had issued around 1,544 test results, many of which were just copies of tests done on other patients. Each real result was copied up to four times and given to unsuspecting patients, the report said.

It has still not been made clear how the fake blood tests have affected the treatment of many patients.

Eight diagnosticians including Vuong Thi Kim Thanh, suspended head of the examination department, face charges of abuse of power while director Nguyen Tri Liem and his deputy Nguyen Thi Nhien are likely to be charged with irresponsibility causing serious consequences.

Liem had ordered his staff to increase the number of blood tests to earn more money for the hospital and Thanh was the mastermind behind the scam that swindled and pocketed a total of around VND16.57 million (US$786) from patients and insurers. The hospital can take 30 percent of the insurers' coverage for insurance card holders. Earlier reports had said the ill-gotten money was VND60 million ($2,844).

Some diagnosticians said that after the case was brought to light, they were instructed by Liem and Thanh to lie to the police that they were making fake results for family and friends who need to complete work applications or driving license procedures, so as to lower the gravity of the crime as it would not effect anyone's health.

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They were asked to say they did this on their own so as to absolve Liem and Thanh.

The scam was exposed by Hoang Thi Nguyet, 46, a hospital diagnostician who worked tirelessly to collect evidence with help from two other colleagues.

"It was a systematic fraud," she said.

Nguyet has since been dubbed "Nguyet Hoai Duc" after the name of the hospital, and has gained fame and fans for inspiring a national debate over medical ethics.

Her reward of VND320,000 ($15) plus a certificate (and no flowers) from the city Health Department invited public criticism with many saying it was an insult rather than a compliment. City legislators have also criticized the reward as being too little to encourage truth-telling by others.

And despite her request, Phan Thi Oanh, another diagnostician who helped Nguyet with the investigation, has not managed to evade a criminal probe for joining the scam at the beginning. Oanh was listed among those facing the "power abuse" charge.

Nguyet herself has been subjected to an ongoing investigation after her boss Liem joined several other people to lodge complaints saying she had committed the same crime of duplicating blood tests.

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