Ensuring kids get quality health care

Ha Noi Moi (New Ha Noi) newspaper spoke to the director of the Ha Noi Health Department, Pham Le Tuan, about issues arising since the Government extended free health care services to all children aged under six years.

What are your comments o­n the law?

I must say this is a wise decision reflecting society’s comprehensive care given to children - the future of our nation.

The law gives poor children opportunities to access health care services. It will no doubt help reduce mortality rates among children. However, it will need synchronous efforts from all concerned parties to turn the legal document into reality.

How has it been implemented in Ha Noi?

As of June 30, a total of 14 districts in Ha Noi have issued free health care cards for children under six, the Committee for Population and Children reports. The city has granted 322,961 cards to children up to six years old.
In the first six months of this year, 220,439 children under six accessed free health care services, compared to 279,430 in 2005. — VNS

Though the law came into effect o­n January 1, 2005, until early April 2005, we received Circulars 26/2005/TT-TC and 14/2005/TT-BYT from the ministries of Finance and Health, respectively, o­n how to administer, use and settle the costs of medical treatment for children under six years old.

We organised meetings with Government agencies concerned, including the Ha Noi People’s Committee. As a result, a budget of VND15.167 billion ($1 million) was allocated for the year 2005 and VND22 billion ($1.4 million) for 2006.

To reduce pressure o­n the city’s hospitals, the Health Department issued Official Letter 5477/UB-VX guiding the implementation of the law at health clinics in the city, including referrals.

Ha Noi’s health sector has carried out an extensive communication campaign informing parents of health clinics where they can take their sick children. But many parents still take their children directly to big hospitals, not the designated clinics. What are your comments?

In the guiding law we mention clearly that children first of all have to go to designated clinics. If they want to go to big hospitals in the city, they must obtain referral letters from those clinics.

Can you elaborate o­n the present paediatric wards or hospitals in the city?

The city’s paediatric network now has 22 units. Eleven of them have beds for in-patients and the remaining health care centres o­nly do diagnoses and out-patient treatments. In addition, there are 10 central hospitals in the city with children’s wards. They are the Central Children’s Hospital, the Central Obstetrics and Gynecological Hospital, the Central Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, Hospital 108 and the Viet Nam-German Hospital, among others.

Operating alongside the public health sector, the private health sector also offers health check-ups and treatment for children in Ha Noi.

Furthermore, the city has spent VND7.2 billion ($450,000) in 2006 o­n buying specialised ambulances, equipment and facilities for new-born babies.

How do you evaluate implementation of the law?

I can say that almost 100 per cent of children under six years old in the city have received their health cards free of charge. From May 1, 2005 to June 2006, about 486,000 children received medical treatment free of charge. In the first six month of 2006, 206,700 children have been treated.

Have any problems cropped up during implementation of the law?

We received the budget for the programme right at the beginning of the year. This has helped us be pro-active in our performance. The Municipal People’s Committee has also allowed us to transfer money from the previous year to the following year. This has been of great help.

However, implementation of the programme requires us to do quite a lot of paperwork, compiling daily reports and books.