HO CHI MINH CITY (Viet Nam News/ANN) — The Mekong Delta faces a severe lack of medical specialists, especially in life-threatening fields such as tuberculosis and leprosy.
Most hospitals and medical centres do not have enough doctors who specialise in tuberculosis, leprosy, neurology, psychiatry or forensic pathology, according to local authorities.
Many doctors and nurses after graduation tend to move to large cities like HCM City to work, rather than return to their home regions.
Viet Nam ranks 12th out of the top 22 countries most affected by tuberculosis, with 130,000 new patients a year.
But 332 of 1,611 communes in the Mekong Delta do not have such specialists, according to the health ministry.
The Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho said the delta had the lowest doctor-to-patient ratio in the country.
More than 70 communes in Kien Giang Province have no doctors, while Soc Trang Province has 3.89 doctors per 10,000 residents.
Local authorities and the Ministry of Education and Training are trying to attract and train more doctors with specialist skills, but have achieved little success.
Many provinces have suggested offering more financial incentives to attract skilled personnel.
Pham Van Linh, head of Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy, said the cost for healthcare science training courses was high.
He said the university had opened more faculties to train medical workers to meet demand in the region.
In 2014, the rate of medical workers increased to 6.17 doctors and 1.13 pharmacists per 10,000 residents, compared to 4.26 doctors per 10,000 residents and 0.22 pharmacists per 10,000 residents in 2008.
To ensure the target of nine doctors and two pharmacists per 10,000 people, the university should train an additional 5,800 doctors and 2,400 pharmacists by 2020, according to Linh.
The Ministry of Education and Training recently approved a proposal by the Southwestern Steering Committee and Can Tho Medicine University to receive 150 students into faculties of tuberculosis, leprosy, mental diseases, forensic medicine and surgery.
To meet demand, the university needs to train 839 students for the health sector; however, to ensure training quality, the school can only satisfy 20 – 30 percent of demand.
Most provinces in the Mekong Delta are experiencing a shortage of medical workers because preferential policies are not attractive enough.
A Government decision issued in 2006 stipulated that the aim is to provide seven doctors and one pharmacist with a bachelor's degree for every 10,000 people.
However, statistics from Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy show that for the 17.6 million people in the region, there are only 9,200 doctors and 1,200 pharmacists.
This represents a rate of only 5.27 doctors and 0.73 pharmacists per 10,000. To comply with the decision, the area would need more than 3,000 doctors and 655 pharmacists.
Ca Mau Province has a ratio of only 6.26 doctors to 10,000 people, while Soc Trang Province has the lowest rate with 3.78 doctors, about half the requested figure