Vietnam health minister retires mid-term

By Duc Hoang, Viet Tuan, Hoang Thuy   November 22, 2019 | 05:28 pm GMT+7
Vietnam health minister retires mid-term
Nguyen Thi Kim Tien retires mid-term as Vietnamese Minister of Health on November 22, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Hai.

Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Vietnam's only female minister and only minister not a Party Central Committee member, retires Friday.

The legislative National Assembly made the official announcement of Tien's retirement at its ongoing session in Hanoi.

With Tien reaching the retirement age of 60 and not being a committee member, she has to retire midway instead of continuing to work till the term ends in 2021. Her replacement has not been announced.

Tien, a native of the central province of Ha Tinh, was appointed Minister of Health in August 2011.

She was member of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam between January 2011 and January 2016 but was not reelected in the 12th committee for the 2016-2021 term, making her the only minister without such position.

During her time as health minister, Tien had assigned herself the task of reducing overload in hospitals.

When taking the position, she'd said: "There is no place in the world I have visited, even South Africa, that patients have to lie underneath hospital beds as is happening in our country."

In March 2012, she told legislators at a session that some major hospitals in Vietnam had three to four patients in one bed, and put forward a plan to build a second campus for Hanoi's K hospital, one of the biggest in Vietnam and specializing in cancer treatment, as also for Cho Ray, a major hospital in Ho Chi Minh City that serves the entire southern region.

One month after that session, her ministry submitted a master plan on easing hospital overload to the government. The plan, which targets eliminating the problem by 2020, was approved.

Some of her promises were realized.

The second and third campuses of K Hospital were opened in 2012 and 2016. The bed occupation rate at the hospital decreased from 249 percent in 2012 to around 100 percent in the middle of this year.

But the second campus for Cho Ray Hospital still remains on paper. The hospital receives around 5,500 patients and admits 2,700 a day.

Seeing that the lack of doctors and facilities in remote and poor areas was a major reason for patients to flock to big hospitals in cities and towns, the ministry acted to address this problem.

In 2013, it developed the satellite hospital model in which district-level hospitals would receive training courses and support from city and national-level hospitals. Tien herself took young volunteer doctors to poor and remote districts and encouraged more to do the same.

Thanks to this model, 19 satellite hospitals have been set up around 23 nucleus hospitals and by 2018, 56,500 hospital beds have been added nationwide.

Two patients share a bed put along the hallway of a hospital in Hanoi in 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Two patients share a bed put along the hallway of the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi in 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

However, despite these efforts, overloading remains a problem at major hospitals across Vietnam.

Tien used to tell the press that a lack of state funds to build new hospitals and equip existing ones with better tools had placed difficulties in dealing with the overload problem.

Four months ago, Tien was named the head of a department that takes care of the health of government officials.

 
 
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