HCMC aims to retain quitting medics

By Huu Cong   December 8, 2021 | 09:32 pm PT
HCMC aims to retain quitting medics
Medical workers arrive at a family where Covid-19 patients are treated at home in Binh Chanh District, September 2021. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong
With more staff at state-owned medical centers across wards and communes resigning, the HCMC Health Department has submitted a plan to keep them.

Addressing a meeting with city legislators Wednesday, Tang Chi Thuong, director of the municipal Department of Health, said "many staff at medical centers at commune and ward level have quit their jobs this year."

There are many reasons for them to resign but the most common are exhaustion following months fighting Covid-19 and the low income, he said.

In the first 10 months this year, 968 staff at state-owned medical centers quit their jobs compared to 597 last year, Nguyen Thi Huynh Mai, department office chief, said last month.

A majority of those who quit were medical workers at ward/level medical centers, she said. Most cited financial problems or other personal reasons, she noted.

HCMC currently has just 2.3 medical workers per 10,000 residents, compared to the national average of 7.4, according to the department, Thuong told the Wednesday meeting.

There are 310 medical centers at commune and ward level, with 52 having less than five employees, 173 having six to eight each, and 64 having nine or 10. On average, each ward and commune in the city has around 30,000 residents.

"Even before the pandemic, such medical centers had already reported overload, and the latest outbreak in the city has clearly showed the problems they had been facing," said Thuong.

Ho Chi Minh City has for months implemented the policy of having Covid-19 patients self-isolate themselves and only hospitalizing severe cases. It has been relying on medical task forces at medical centers across wards and communes to take care of the former.

Yet apart from the one-time allowance regulated at either VND4.5 million ($195) or VND10 million for frontline medics, they have been paid exactly the remuneration they received before the pandemic.

To prevent more medical workers from leaving, the department has submitted a plan to city authorities, proposing three solutions to keep medical workers from quitting.

First of all, each medical worker at state-owned medical centers across wards and communes should be offered additional incomes of VND4-6 million ($175-262) per month instead of less than VND1 million each month as applied since 2015 until now.

For now, the monthly salary for the head of a medical center stands at VND6 million, and VND3.75 million for nurses and pharmacists.

The department also suggested the city let doctors that have just graduated practice at medical centers of ward and commune level for 12 months instead of doing so at hospitals for 18 months.

During the practice period, newly-graduated doctors would not have to pay any fees, as what is required if practicing at hospitals. On the other hand, they would be offered monthly financial support equal to 1.5 times the minimum wage.

"If this policy is approved, around 500 doctors will be sent to grassroots medical centers across the city each year, which would benefit both the newly graduated doctors and city’s healthcare system," the department’s director said.

The plan also seeks to have more staff at each medical center in wards and communes to proportionally match the locality's population.

Between Oct. 1 and 20 when HCMC had just reopened after four months of restrictions the number of new Covid-19 cases and deaths in the city had decreased strongly against the previous period.

However, since Oct. 20 until recently, both daily infections and deaths have been on the rise, which means the pressure on medical centers lingers.

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