HCMC foreign clinics fearmonger to drain patients' pockets

By Le Phuong   December 13, 2022 | 04:30 pm PT
HCMC foreign clinics fearmonger to drain patients' pockets
Doctors in an operation. Illustration photo by Pixabay
Foreign clinics in HCMC, most of them Chinese, are conjuring up threats of deadly diseases to get more money out of patients.

A 54-year-old man with nocturia came to a foreign clinic in District 10 to get a diagnosis. He received injections worth VND22 million ($931.22), but his condition did not improve.

The man, unnamed, said he's heard of the clinic via social media. After making calls to the clinic for advice, its employees told him every day to go to the clinic soon or his condition could worsen and become dangerous.

At the clinic, the man was told by "doctors" that he was at risk of getting prostate cancer, and that he needed an injection. These same people told him that an VND18 million drug would make him "50% recovered," while another drug costing VND22 million would make him "90% recovered."

"The moment I heard the word 'cancer,' I panicked. So I agreed to get the more expensive drug and handed over the money immediately," the man said.

After going home, the man’s condition did not improve. When he checked to see exactly which drug he had been given, he found out he had been administered only saline solutions, cheap disinfectants and antibiotics. When he decided to go to a major hospital for a proper diagnosis, he was prescribed drugs that cost only VND1.2 million and his condition went away.

The man's has not been an uncommon one recently thanks to conman clinics with foreign elements in HCMC.

Patients often visit such clinics to have basic tests performed, which usually cost them only a few hundred thousand dong. But afterwards, they receive news that they have "severe" and "dangerous" diseases that "may become cancer." The patients are then conned into spending dozens of millions of dong on quack treatments.

Thu Tuyet, 31, once spent over VND16 million after a visit to an "international" clinic in District 1. She told staff that her groin itched and a person at the clinic with no name tag said she had cervical ectropion and was at risk of cancer or infertility. Staff then performed procedures on her and gave her drugs, but two weeks later her condition had not improved.

When she finally went to a hospital, she was diagnosed with vaginitis, and was told her condition would clear up quickly after using the right drugs.

"The doctor told me that cervical ectropion is a physiological condition that had nothing to do with cervical cancer," Tuyet said, adding that the VND16 million she paid was money that had taken her a long time to save. Combined with the fact that she’s currently unemployed, she said she felt "hurt for being tricked."

Tang Chi Thuong, director of the HCMC Department of Health, said that after a period of low activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic, certain clinics with foreign elements, mostly Chinese ones, are beginning to commit severe healthcare violations. Many businesses that have already been fined in the past are at it again, he said. Some clinics simply change their names after penalties and resume unethical activities.

Recent inspections of 12 previously reprimanded clinics – including four whose registered practitioner is a foreigner – by the city health department and experts from multiple hospitals revealed continued violations. Many practitioners lacked licenses and proper equipment.

Certain practitioners were found unable to provide proper diagnoses and treatments, and/or they were found giving patients treatments that do not align with Ministry of Health regimens. Other violations included false advertising.

HCMC police last week said they had deported two foreigners found committing malpractice at shady health clinics.

The HCMC health department has proposed that the National Assembly pass an amended version of the Law on Medical Examination and Treatment that would require foreign doctors operating in Vietnam to be fluent in Vietnamese.

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