Shortage of drugs, medical equipment a problem across medical facilities

“Currently, Vietnam has not been able to produce dental anaesthetics, so it is not possible to actively prepare for a source of alternative medicine”, said a doctor at one of the hospitals.

Viet Nam News

Viet Nam News



Medical staff at a drug storage area at Phú Yên General Hospital in the province of Phú Yên. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Triệu

September 22, 2022

HÀ NỘI — The shortage of drugs and medical equipment continues to affect the nation’s medical facilities, greatly affecting quality of care.

Phạm Thanh Hà, deputy director of the Central Odonto-Stomatology Hospital, said the hospital will run out of anaesthetic within the next two weeks.

The hospital serves about 1,000 outpatients a day. She said that two-thirds of the hospital’s medical services use anaesthetics.

Inpatient treatment also use a lot of anaesthetics, she added.

She said the type of anaesthetic that the hospital has been using is an imported drug from France.

Currently, Việt Nam has not been able to produce dental anaesthetics, so it is not possible to actively prepare for a source of alternative medicine, she said.

In the meantime, Bạch Mai Poison Control Centre under Bạch Mai Hospital also reported a shortage of many drugs, including anti-snake venom serum and the antitoxin for Clostridium Botulinum poisoning.

Nguyễn Trung Nguyên, director of the centre, said that antitoxins play a very important role in treating poison patients, significantly reducing the mortality rate.

“When specific drugs are in short supply, doctors have to use all possible means to save the patient, but the effect is very limited,” he said.

Causes and solutions

Hà said the recent shortage of anaesthetics is because the import licence for anaesthetics has not been renewed, and the drug supply companies are also out of stock.

The lack of anaesthetics previously occurred only in public health facilities, but now even private facilities are in short supply as the upcoming supply is limited, she said.

For anaesthetics alone, it takes at least three to four months to register and import into Việt Nam because the manufacturing plants all require a pre-order plan, she said.

At the moment, Việt Nam only imports anaesthetics from two or three manufacturers. However, there are not many anaesthetic manufacturers globally, so it is difficult to find substitutes, she said.

Explaining the drug and medical supply shortages in some localities and at central-level hospitals, the Ministry of Health pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic. The impacts of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 led to the scarcity of materials for production and surging prices, which made it more difficult to purchase medicine and medical supplies.

Notably, some localities and establishments feared that they might commit wrongdoings or undergo examination and inspection, so they didn’t dare buy supplies.

According to the Drug Administration of Việt Nam, administrative procedures for extending a drug circulation and registration certificate are complicated, causing interruption of drug production, circulation and supply due to expired certificates.

Therefore, the administration has proposed extending the drug circulation and registration certificate without submitting it to the advisory council for issuing drug circulation and registration certificates.

The extension procedures only require enterprises to submit an application with the minimum information, commit, and take full responsibility before the law for their registered information.

The administration said it is necessary to supplement regulations on drug registration and circulation in urgent cases.

In a related movement, Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính recently ordered ministries, sectors and localities to coordinate and issue appropriate solutions.

He also told affected agencies to apply technology to make the bidding and auction of drugs more publicly and transparent.

The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Planning and Investment have to guide the organisation of flexible bidding in the form of centralised or decentralised bidding, so that the procurement of drugs for medical examination and treatment for the people is more convenient, he said.

He has assigned the ministries of health, finance, and planning and investment, as well as the people’s committees at the provincial level, to end the shortage of drugs, medical supplies and equipment for medical examination and treatment activities soon. — VNS

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