HCM City hospitals face drugs shortage

A doctor examines and gives medicine to children in HCM City's Children Hospital No 1. Local hospitals in the city are facing an imminent shortage of drugs. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Hai

A doctor examines and gives medicine to children in HCM City's Children Hospital No 1. Local hospitals in the city are facing an imminent shortage of drugs. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Hai

HCM CITY (VNS)— Major State-run hospitals in HCM City say that in just several weeks, they are likely to run out of scores of medicines needed to treat patients if the municipal administration refuses to extend current procurement methods.

The Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital is facing a shortage of more than 100 drug items, said Nguyen Huy Dung, director of the hospital.

Doctors are having to prescribe drugs not in the hospital’s approved medicine list to replace missing ones so that patients can get enough drugs for treatment, Dung said.

A representative of the Hospital for Traumatology and Orthopaedics anticipates that 20 per cent of more than 300 drugs in the hospital’s inventory would be out of stock by early September. It is already cleaned out of three drugs.

Leaders at several State-run hospitals have said that hundreds of drugs would run out of stock if swift action is not taken and the centralised bidding procurement system, which was set to begin operating in June, continues to be delayed.

Patients with health insurance are having to purchase prescribed drugs at drug stores and hand over invoices to the city’s Social Insurance Agency to get refunds, according to doctors at the An Binh Hospital.

Centralised bidding

In mid-May, the city’s People’s Committee asked the newly-established Public Asset Procurement Division under the Department of Health to conduct centralised bidding for procuring drugs that State-run healthcare institutions need.

The move was aimed at finding supplies of quality drugs at competitive prices for the city’s public hospitals.

Previously, State-run healthcare institutions in the city purchased drugs through their own bidding procurement processes, resulting in differences in drug prices between hospitals.

While waiting for the new office to complete procedures and preparations for the centralised bidding procurement, the People’s Committee approved until June the extension of purchase contracts that were made last year and had expired in March.

The Department of Health then petitioned the People’s Committee to permit hospitals to further extend contracts with drug distributors to restock drugs from July until the centralised bidding system can begin delivering drugs, now expected to happen between November and December.

As the People’s Committee did not approve the petition, hospitals are facing drastic shortages of drugs.

“The centralised bidding procurement is a necessary measure to eliminate shortcomings in drug pricing at public hospitals,” said Nguyen Tan Binh, director of the Department of Health.

“There has been significant difference in prices, up to 20 per cent, between two hospitals that are just several metres from each other. That is unacceptable,” Binh said at a conference held on Monday to discuss the centralised bidding procurement process.

Drug efficacy and competitive prices are the most important factors in procurement, he said.

Nguyen Duy Thuan, official with the Pharmacy Department at the HCM City University Medical Centre, expressed concerns about the risk of enduring drug shortages, saying it would be difficult for pharmaceutical enterprises who win the bids to supply enough medicines to all public hospitals in the city.

If only one pharmaceutical enterprise won a bid, there will be no replacement drugs in case of unexpected impacts, said Nguyen Quoc Binh, head of the Cho Ray Hospital’s Pharmacy Department.

Pham Khanh Phong Lan, deputy director of the department, said domestic pharmaceutical enterprises should be given priority in the centralised bidding processes.

The department is considering several measures to prevent drastic shortages of drugs at hospitals while waiting for the centralised bidding procurement to begin working, Lan said. — VNS

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