Being away from your familiarized country can be a frightening experience, especially if you are sick or in need of medical attention. Hopefully, our guide will equip you with essential knowledge of health care in Vietnam to ensure your safety during your visit so that you can fully experience the best that the S-shape nation has to offer.
Overview of the Health Care System in Vietnam
Healthcare facilities, services are especially scarce in rural areas in comparison with major cities like Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi. Be sure to do your research before going on a trip to remote places by checking out the full list of hospitals in Vietnam here (note that the region code has changed since 2017, check the list for the updated new regional code). You should also remember that all hospitals in Vietnam only accept payment in Vietnam Dong while some accept major credit cards.
However, the healthcare system in Vietnam is still extremely underfunded by the government. This means that the insurance plan itself doesn’t cover many treatments. As a result, many travelers usually choose an international health insurance plan before their arrival in Vietnam. Be sure to check with both the hospital and your healthcare provider about the kind of treatment that your health insurance can cover before receiving any treatment.
Buying the right health insurance plan can be beneficial for travelers
Public Health Care Services
Public services include governmental insurance and public hospitals. These services are usually cheaper but often of lower quality due to the greater number of demands.
In 2015, 13.4% of people in Vietnam joined the social insurance plan of the government, and 75% joined in medical insurance. In 2016, the rate for medical insurance was over 86%, but it was still not enough for the government welfare system to develop.
Governmental Health Insurance in Vietnam
Health insurance in Vietnam provided by the government includes three types: medical insurance, accident insurance, and a part of social insurance. Social insurance is compulsory for some people, both locals and foreigners, as defined by Vietnam insurance law.
As for employees who are in contract with an organization for more than 3 months, the total cost for medical insurance is 4.5% of their salary. 1.5% will be paid by them and 3% by their employers. The amount paid for medical insurance of an employee is also the amount they have to pay for their mandatory social insurance.
The fee for medical check-up and treatment is only exempted for some cases like children under 6 years old and disabled person that are not capable of working and without income. If you are not on this list, you will have to pay medical fees, with or without insurance coverage.
Vietnamese mostly use governmental insurance for major surgery and treatments where the process will cover a long time and fee is really high such as orthopedic surgery and cancer treatments. For minor cases such as health check-ups, Vietnamese will often disregard the insurance because the procedures are too complicated.
Procedures at Public Hospitals
Before check-up, you will have to provide your information and register with the hospital, pay the fee first, take the number and wait for your turn. If you want to use insurance, you will have to present it when registering for a check-up procedure before the fee payment. When you check up at times other than office hours, your payment will not be covered by the insurance. If you are hospitalized or in need of urgent surgery, you still have to pay the medical fees before getting any treatment.
You have to go to the hospital you have chosen when signing up for the insurance. When you come to other hospitals other than the one you’ve registered, it is most likely that your insurance will be denied, unless the registered hospital doesn’t have the specialization to cure your sickness. In some cases, your insurance may be accepted when you come to hospitals of the same level (e.g. provincial and national).
The hospital quotes their fee for each situation, depending on whether you have an insurance card or not, and what type of insurance card you have.
If you have insurance types 1, 2, and 5, your insurance will cover 100% of your medical fees with different levels of limitation to other fees like medicines and hospital transfer. Insurance type 3 will cover 95% and 100% in some cases, and type 4 will cover 80%. Also, not all types of diseases or medical fees will be paid by insurance. Examples of non-coverage fees are regular pregnancy check-up that is not for treatment, use of the prosthesis, and vision problems treatment.
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Public Health Care Facilities
Public hospitals in Vietnam are often overcrowded
Hospitals. Most public hospitals in Vietnam are generally underfunded, have basic medical equipment, with the majority of staff including both nurses and doctors who only speak Vietnamese. These hospitals are generally overcrowded as well. Nevertheless, the big size of public hospitals means that they have various medical departments to treat a wide range of illnesses. Government subsidies also help to reduce expenses.
The quality and access to medical services like the number of doctors and advanced equipment for treatment in urban cities are higher than those in rural areas. This is part of the reason why many hospitals in big cities in Vietnam are packed with people coming from many provinces nearby seeking medical treatment. Also, the incapable facilities and insufficient rooms for all the patients like in orthopedic hospitals have made many patients stay in the hallways.
Pharmacies. In hospitals, there are pharmacies on site where you can purchase the prescribed medicine after the check-up. Only some medicines will be covered by insurance.
Emergency services. The number for the emergency dial-in Vietnam is 115. However, ambulances in Vietnam called “xe cap cuu” usually have a slow response time, partly due to the heavy traffic. Therefore, it is recommended that you should call a taxi to drive you to the nearest hospital in emergency cases.
The emergency response time of ambulances in Vietnam can be slow due to heavy traffic
Private Health Care Services in Vietnam
Private health care services include commercial insurance and private hospitals. These services are usually more expensive than public ones but more professional in customer services.
There is not an official number on number of people buying medical insurance from private-owned businesses. But the cost is at a fixed price and generally higher than that of the government, so people who could afford it rather choose to use the private services.
Some common names of insurance in Vietnam are Prudential, Generali, Daichi-life, Bao Viet, and those discounts provided by the private hospitals (for example, Hanoi French Hospital, FV Hospital, and Vinmec Hospital).
Health Care Facilities
Hospitals and Clinics. Compared to the public hospitals, services provided by private hospitals in Vietnam are more professional where patients get more care and attention, with foreign specialists or Vietnamese doctors who are mostly trained abroad and English-speaking staff. Some famous private hospitals in Vietnam are Hanoi French Hospital, Vinmec, FV Hospital, Hanh Phuc Hospital, and Hoan My Hospital.
Private hospitals tend to cater to expatriates, tourists, so they do accept international health insurance. However, the better the service, the more you have to pay. Plus, their sizes are often smaller compared to public hospitals with less staff, so you might still have to wait on a busy day despite the low number of patients.
The private clinics can be run by a private organization (like FV Saigon Clinics), or by an individual doctor from the public sector (these clinics, hence, only open in the evening).
Pharmacies. Finding medicines (both over-the-counter and prescriptions) in capital cities like Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi isn’t difficult even for new travelers as there are many pharmacies that can be easily found on major streets, in shopping malls, and in local markets. In case of an emergency at late night, there are also convenient chains of drug stores that open till midnight like Pharmacity and Vistar Pharmacy.
Over-the-counter medicines can be easily accessed
Always check for the expiration date on the package before paying as many dishonest pharmacies can sell you counterfeit or out-of-date drugs. To take extra caution, you can bring your own medicine from your home country or purchase over-the-counter medicine in hospitals when traveling to Vietnam for a short time.
Emergency Services. Emergency Medical Response *9999. This is a private-owned service. The current coverage of this service is in Ho Chi Minh City (14 districts). You can call them 24/7 but there are different fees for in-zone subscribers, out-of-zone subscribers, and non-subscribers. The staff can speak English and Vietnamese. Check out more of their price and services coverage here.
Procedures at Private Hospitals
The check-up procedure is similar to that of the public sector. The insurance acceptance and coverage are based on the hospital’s policy, the hospital’s partnership with the insurance company, and the insurance policy. Some private hospitals also have membership programs, with which the patients will receive special offers or discounts. You will also need to present your insurance card to the staff before making the payment when you register your information with the hospital.
Government insurance can also be used in private hospitals if the hospitals have contracts with the social insurance department. Whether you need to pay the fee or deposit before the treatment in urgent cases depends on the hospital policy.
Health Risks When in Vietnam
- Water contamination is still a big challenge for the government in Vietnam. Even though tap water is safe to brush your teeth or take showers in, it is advised that you should never drink directly from the tap. If you still have concerns regarding water hygiene in Vietnam, read more information in our guide.
- The chaotic pace of Vietnam traffic can frighten any first-time traveler, follow these safety procedures carefully if you decide to take part in any means of transportation.
- If you are traveling to rural areas where hygiene standards are not always guaranteed, infectious diseases like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Tetanus can pose a major threat. Make sure that you have taken all the vaccinations required before the trip.
- Minor problems such as sunburn, dehydration, sunstroke should not be taken lightly because of the tropical climate, especially during the humid summer.
You should also take these basic precautions to minimize the risk and make sure that your stay in Vietnam is as safe as possible.
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Traveling to Vietnam for a Medical Procedure
Many Vietnamese who are currently residing overseas, and even foreigners, choose Vietnam as their destination for various medical procedures like dental treatment, dermatology or infertility issues, etc. in combination with traveling or visiting relatives because of the significantly lower cost compared to that of Western countries.
Ask your Vietnamese friends, acquaintances for recommendations to a trusted doctor who usually treats local patients as the price for doctors who specialize in treating foreigners is significantly more expensive.
Conclusion on Health Care in Vietnam
While being on a trip to a foreign country can be a great adventure of a lifetime, it is extremely important to take careful precautions before your departure to minimize preventable risks and avoid unnecessary threats.
You could also learn how to plan your budget if you wish to save money on your trip to Vietnam.
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