In Việt Nam, there is a saying that goes ‘lương y như từ mẫu’, meaning that good doctors are like loving mothers.
I agree and I respect doctors for their important role in society as well as the demanding nature of their job.
When we are sick, we completely count on our doctors.
But recent medical mistakes and fraud in the healthcare sector have caused a great deal of public concern and left many of us wondering who to trust.
The recent case where medical workers were alleged to have cut HIV testing strips at Hà Nội’s Saint Paul Hospital, the largest hospital under the management of Hà Nội, created widespread panic.
Many people have asked whether other establishments were doing similar things. Are all test results to be trusted or not?
VTV24 reported on Monday that the workers of the hospital’s Microbiology Department cut thousands of HIV and Hepatitis B test strips in half in order to use them for two people instead of one, ignoring directions given by its manufacturer.
The hospital has denied the report.
Nguyễn Đình Hưng, the hospital director said on Tuesday that only 40 such strips had been cut in half and tested on a trial basis on 80 blood samples.
The HIV test strips that were cut were provided by private medical supplier Lục Tỉnh Company free of charge. They were used as an experiment that hospital leaders were reportedly unaware of.
They were not the test strips provided by the hospital for its patients, he said.
In an urgent meeting with hospital leaders, medical staff involved in the incident admitted that from September to November, 2019, the Microbiology Department cut 40 HIV testing strips in half and used them to test 80 blood samples.
The hospital suspended three staff of the Microbiology Department, including the department’s deputy head, its head technician and the technician involved in the misconduct.
According to medical experts, this action was unacceptable because it could lead to false results.
It was a serious issue because an HIV-positive person could be informed they had tested negative, they said.
Trần Thị Nhị Hà, deputy director of Hà Nội Department of Health, said whether the test strips in question had been used as an experiment was irrelevant; it was still a violation.
“Cutting the strips in half will definitely not guarantee an accurate result,” Hà said.
“This behaviour is completely against the procedures for medical examination and testing.”
The Department of Health has asked Saint Paul’s Hospital to formally explain the incident to the Ministry of Health, the Hà Nội People’s Committee and the city Department of Health.
Hà also said that for any violation, the people involved would be held to account, individually and collectively, and face disciplinary action.
A representative of Lục Tỉnh Company told Lao Động (Labour) newspaper that altering the test strips was completely wrong.
“All testing strips used for patients or experiments are never allowed to be cut because it will certainly affect the test results, ” the officer insisted.
The behaviour of these medical workers is not in compliance with professional ethics in healthcare and calls into question why the did it.
Many have asked what will the remaining test strips in Microbiology Department be used for?
Each quick HIV test kit which consists of 100 testing strips costs VNĐ3 million (US$130).
“For 40 years in my career, I have never heard of cutting HIV test strips. I have not taught anyone to do it. This is the first time I have heard of such an incident, ” said Dr Nguyễn Nghiêm Luật, former head of Hà Nội Medical University’s Biochemistry Department
“This action is unacceptable.”
To get accurate results, technicians must comply with the manufacturer’s regulations, he said.
According to lawyers, the cutting of the test strips may have violated Article 356 of the Criminal Code, and a police investigation and legal proceedings are warranted if there is sufficient evidence.
Lawyer Nguyễn Anh Thơm from the Hà Nội Bar Association said to have a clear answer and avoid causing public panic, investigation agencies need to get involved to clarify the violations as well as the motives for any crimes that were committed.
Referring to Article 356 of the Criminal Code, Thơm said the medical staff’s behaviour could be criminally punished if causing consequences and damages.
“I recently went to Hà Nội’s Thanh Nhàn Hospital for a health check-up and I found that the healthcare services and attitude of the medical staff here have improved markedly and I am very happy about that”, said Nguyễn Đức Hùng, a man living in Hà Nội’s Hoàng Mai District.
“I was really shocked to hear this news. I do not know who patients can trust when they go to the hospital.
“Are there any other health facilities that do the same?” he asked.
The public is still shocked at the case of Việt Nam Pharma Joint Stock Company selling fake medicine for cancer treatment.
All those involved the case were sentenced years in prison by a court in HCM City in October, but it seems the punishment wasn’t strong enough to deter fraud.
The case of cutting HIV testing strips is under investigation.
Hopefully, those who caused this will be properly punished to create trust with patients, as it’s vitally important that patients feel they can trust their doctors.