The quality of healthcare in Vietnam has made great progress since the 1990’s and the country is currently working to develop a universal healthcare system. This system aims to offer cover to all residents, providing them with a basic level of healthcare.
The country is currently working closely with Thailand who themselves developed a universal healthcare system.
Currently the majority of Vietnamese people have to pay for health services themselves, even though the World Bank approved a USD 106 million credit to help improve the current healthcare system in May 2014. At present the government only invests a small amount of GDP into the health system.
Yet despite this, the quality of doctors and international hospitals in the major cities is good and these hospitals are equipped to deal with expatriates and their needs.
Reforms are mostly needed in rural areas of the country where sufficient medical care is not readily available in small towns and villages.
Hospitals in Vietnam
Expats living in Vietnam will most likely find that public hospitals do not meet the standards of those in Western Europe or North America. The public hospitals are often poorly equipped and underfunded. Doctors working in these hospitals may also only speak the Vietnamese language.
Private hospitals, on the other hand, offer excellent standards and are most often staffed by doctors from the USA, Korea, France and Japan, as well as local doctors who have trained overseas.
Private hospitals do accept international health insurance and tend to cater to the needs of expats much better than public hospitals can. The majority of doctors in international hospitals will speak English.
Medicines and Pharmacies
Pharmacies in Vietnam are easy to find and are mostly well stocked. In big cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, you can expect to find a pharmacy on any major shopping street or mall.
Purchasing medication over the counter is a straight forward process.
Expats should be aware though that there are often times when medication has been purchased which is out of date. There is also a risk that medication is counterfeit. If you visit a pharmacy in one of the private hospitals then you can avoid any of these risks.
Expats should have no problem bringing in prescription medication into the country, although it is always best to carry a copy of the prescription and a letter from the doctor claiming it is for personal use.
Pharmacity is one of the main pharmacies that you will find branches of in the major cities.
The number to call in case of an emergency in Vietnam is 115. However, ambulance response times are often slow due to a lack of ambulances in service. Paramedics do not always speak English and you may be treated with substandard equipment.
Some of the private hospitals in the countries major cities provide a private ambulance service which should be faster and more efficient.
If possible, expats should take a taxi to the nearest private hospital to get medical treatment.
For anyone moving or travelling to Vietnam, there are no special immunisations needed. However, expats moving to the country should ensure that their vaccinations are up to date for the following:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Rabies (advisable for those living or working in rural areas)
Anyone arriving from yellow fever zones in Africa or South America will need to provide a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Health Hazards in Vietnam
While life in the country is generally safe, especially in the major cities, there are a number of widespread infectious diseases that you should be cautious about. These include hepatitis A and B which can be a big problem in the countryside where hygiene standards are usually lower compared to the cities.
Typhoid, dengue fever and malaria are also still common in the country.
It is best to avoid drinking tap water and drink from bottled water instead. Sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration may also pose a problem due to the heat.
Many Vietnamese people still have to deal with the effects of the biological warfare that took place during the Vietnam War. A biological weapon known as Agent Orange was used widely and ravaged much of the countries landscape and agriculture.
This impacted on the food chain and ultimately people’s health. Today, people still suffer from children being born with physical disabilities, or miscarriages.
There is no threat anymore to expats coming into the country.
Notes to Remember
- Medivac (medical evacuation) is a service that will assist in taking you to Bangkok or Singapore when medical cases are severe and cannot be treated in the country.
- If you have a certain condition that will require ongoing medication during your stay in Vietnam, it would be best to contact the local pharmacy and clinic and see if they are able to provide this medication or an alternative. This is a better option than bringing huge amounts of medication from your home country.
- As soon as you arrive in the country it is a good idea to register with a local clinic and provide personal details and insurance information. This will save time on your next visit, or in case of an emergency.