The transformation of Vietnam’s healthcare sector is racing forwards after successes in the past year, but the country’s lofty goals are still some way off. Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien discussed with VIR’s Bich Thuy the readiness of a legal framework, and future opportunities for private businesses that may wish to forge partnerships and expand operations in the Vietnamese healthcare system.
|Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien|
Vietnam has made big improvements in universal healthcare coverage, but still faces challenges to achieve the targets set for 2030. How important are public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements in this journey?
Last year the healthcare sector made some great achievements, contributing to the increase in access of primary healthcare for rural people. The quality of examinations and treatment were also raised, along with the development of the PPP model, and facilitation of business activities. Also, during 2018, health insurance coverage reached the rate assigned by the National Assembly. Despite this, the sector is facing obstacles in increasing health insurance coverage, primary healthcare, finance capacity, and the general capacity to provide healthcare services.
Over the past four decades, Vietnam has developed a strong grassroots healthcare network. Now, we are developing further in line with Decision No.2348/QD-TTg, approving the scheme for establishment and implementation of such health facilities. The Ministry of Health (MoH) is developing a trial family health programme across 26 communes before expanding nationwide in line with models created elsewhere. The sector is also focusing on taking care of healthy people, and the fight against non-communicable diseases. To deal with these issues, we are calling for the private sector to join the effort to obtain the goal of universal healthcare coverage by 2030 – one of the country’s sustainable development goals.
A number of multinational corporations have shown interest in PPP projects. What are the opportunities for them in the coming future?
The Vietnamese government is encouraging the private sector to invest in healthcare. We are encouraging domestic private and foreign investors to fund PPP projects, especially in hospitals, grassroots health centres, and primary healthcare facilities. For example, we are developing a family health model and general clinics.
Under the MoH’s health policy reforms, ICT development, infrastructure, medical devices, medicine and vaccine supplies, hi-tech services, and green facilities are among the key reform policies. Therefore, the sector requires partnership from both the private sector and international groups.
At present, development of infrastructure, equipment, and ICT remains weak. Development of smart hospitals, digital health, and smart management still fails to meet the demand. Meanwhile, sufficient supply of pharmaceuticals and vaccines remains a challenge.
We are considering and appraising procedures for some PPP projects in healthcare infrastructure and medical equipment, and we are willing to welcome private investors to join.
PPP developers are awaiting a regulatory framework. When will the long-awaited circular be published?
At present, the sector faces challenges in PPP model implementation because of incomplete legal framework. Vietnam does now have a regulatory framework for PPP investment. It includes Decree No.63/2018/ND-CP on PPP investment, and Decree No.151/2017/ND-CP on management and use of public assets. To facilitate further PPP development, the country needs to have transparent incentives.
We are now completing a circular guiding such ventures in the sector in line with Decree 63, and we expect to complete in the next few months. More importantly, the Ministry of Planning and Investment has announced a draft PPP Law to seek comments in which concerns among domestic and overseas investors are included. Once the law is initiated, it is expected to improve the country’s attractiveness to private investors in healthcare.