Jul 5, 2014

Laos - Medical sector upgrades to prepare for AEC

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The Health Care Department of the Ministry of Health is encouraging major hospitals in Vientiane to upgrade their facilities in preparation for Laos' integration into the Asean Economic Community (AEC) at the end of 2015.

Deputy Director General of the department Associate Prof. Dr Bounnack Saysanasongkham told Vientiane Times this week that improvements are required in various areas within the healthcare service. These include legal documents, administration, rules and principles for work conduct, along with benefits for medical staff who work overtime.

Dr Bounnack said, "Installing modern equipment and human resource training is necessary to improve the standard of our medical facilities."

"This may be difficult, however, as the government has a limited budget and a lot of money is required to buy modern equipment," he said.

He added that in order to solve this problem hospital administrators are advised to collaborate with the private sector to ensure mutual benefits.

Dr Bounnack said, "If we have good standards in our health care system it would not only reduce the number of Lao citizens seeking medical care in neighbouring countries, it would also attract foreigners living in Laos or nearby to receive medical treatment from Lao doctors."

Regional and provincial hospitals were advised to improve their services and ensure that they could operate as a general hospital while also specialising in a specific field of care such as Mahosot Hospital, which is a general hospital specialising in the treatment of heart disease, he said.

Although the Ministry of Health has already begun planning the medical service advancement, some challenges still need to be addressed.

The lack of quality and quantity of medical staff is one of the many problems to be overcome in the development of the health sector. Most doctors work in three different roles of giving treatment, teaching and training.

As a result, patients may not always be able to receive adequate medical treatment from doctors as they are often away teaching students at university or training medical staff in the provinces.

The Deputy Minister of Health Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong told Vientiane Times that Lao doctors and nurses have basic medical techniques, which are just as good as other Asean member countries’ doctors and nurses.

However Lao medical staff may not have certain skills equivalent to Asean medical professionals when it comes to the use of modern medical equipment as they may not be in frequent use in Laos, he said.

Dr Bounkong said, "Upgrading professional skills will not only benefit effective treatment of patients, it will also give Lao doctors the opportunity to work in other Asean countries."

Adding that, the use of English would also be another way to assist them in receiving an accurate diagnosis for effective treatment.

English is very important when travelling in Asean countries for work, whether they receive Asean patients or if they choose to go to a Lao hospital for treatment.

Dr Bounkong urged hospitals to continue upgrading their medical services into modern facilities in preparation for the AEC integration.

The management of foreign doctors working in Laos will also depend on curative law, investment law and pharmaceutical law.

So far, the Ministry of Health has advised the University of Health Sciences to develop a postgraduate curriculum in line with the frame of other Asean countries in order to ensure good quality doctors in the future.

This curriculum is being developed in cooperation with Vietnam and Thailand.

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