Waiting time at Vietnam hospitals not as bad as in Germany

By Duy Nguyen   January 15, 2024 | 03:28 pm PT
Waiting time at Vietnam hospitals not as bad as in Germany
People wait for health checks at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Many Vietnamese complain about having to wait in line from 3 a.m. to be seen at hospitals. In Germany, we have to make an appointment several months in advance.

I often hear people comparing the Vietnamese medical system with those of other countries, and saying one is a miserable ordeal and the other is an out-of-this-world experience. Only, it is far from true.

I'm a Vietnamese living in Germany, and let me tell you something about the medical insurance and treatment there so that you can make a more objective comparison with Vietnam.

First of all, medical insurance in Germany is not cheap. Low-income people have to pay €50 (US$55) a month. Those who earn €70,000 a year have to pay €800 a month for a family package, more than 13% of their income. This does not include dental insurance, which is expensive and only covered by premium packages.

Let us compare this with private insurance packages in Vietnam, which also cover dental care for around $100 a person a year, and you will see which is more efficient.

Then let us talk about the wait time.

For minor problems, you will need to see a family doctor, who can check on and write prescriptions for basic diseases like a cold, fever, cough, or sneezing.

For more serious problems, the family doctor writes a recommendation for you to see a specialized doctor. And even with the recommendation you have to book an appointment, and wait, which can take two months, or even half a year.

Unless you suffer from something that qualifies for emergency care, you have to wait.

In Vietnam, waiting at the hospital gates from 3 a.m. seems like a lot of effort, but at least you are checked and treated the same day.

There are certainly no long lines outside hospitals in Germany, especially at 3 a.m., but then you cannot expect to turn up at a hospital for a checkup either.

Now let us talk about the medical workers' attitudes. I visited private hospitals in Vietnam using private insurance, and their attitude is as good as what I have experienced in Germany.

Sometimes I have faced discrimination in Germany, albeit subtly, because I am a foreigner.

There is also a language barrier since sometimes the doctor’s explanation using academic words is incomprehensible to me. Some old doctors cannot speak English, and that is very inconvenient.

In terms of medical equipment, Vietnam obviously trails Germany which is well developed and much richer. But Vietnam has made advancements and many hospitals are equipped with modern machines.

And putting aside machines, I personally think doctors in Vietnam are better at diagnosis.

Doctors in Germany can be excellent in theory and good with operating machines, but they are not as good at diagnosing a condition on their own. The reason could be that Vietnam, as a tropical country, has more diseases and this heightened exposure helps sharpen doctors’ skills.

I’ve seen many Vietnamese living in Germany often returning home for healthcare, especially dental care, because it is cheaper and quicker and the doctors can be better.

Vietnamese healthcare certainly needs improvements. But what I am saying is that people should be fairer and more supportive, and give it the chance to improve.

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