Cheap medical tools mean costly consequences, doctors lament

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A renowned surgeon at an unidentified hospital in the north, returning home after midnight one day, could not sleep: his conscience was troubled by the fact that the condition of his patients might be affected due to poor quality sutures.

Cheap, poor-quality sutures make it difficult for doctors to tie them, and they can break if pulled too hard, he said.

More expensive, better quality sutures are much easier to work with, but his hospital is no longer able to buy them through competitive bidding, he said.

“Head, face and neck cancer surgeries are really difficult because they are very complex. If a vein is accidentally injured, the patient can die within minutes without proper medical intervention. The use of poor quality sutures to stitch up wounds is risky.”

The shortage of high-quality sutures stems from new tendering regulations that force hospitals to buy the cheapest products rather than the best.

The doctor said: “So we have no choice but to buy products that we know are substandard. This means our patients have the short edge of the stick and we have to deal to our conscience.”

During a health conference earlier this week, Nguyen Tri Thuc, director of Cho Ray Hospital of HCMC, also highlighted this problem, indicating that this is the reason why hospitals have to buy scalpels which require three tries to cut the skin.

Poor quality articles affect all aspects of medicine and have far-reaching consequences.

Tan, a dentist in Hanoi, said a good scalpel cuts the skin in one stroke, while a poor quality scalpel requires three.

When it comes to anesthetics, cheap anesthetic often means lower quality, which can lead to side effects such as fatigue, nausea and shock, he said.

Doctors at an HCMC hospital also reported having problems with poor quality urinary catheters after surgery. High quality ones allow doctors to handle them easily and quickly, while low quality ones are much more difficult to use and sometimes require less than ideal methods, which can cause pain to patients.

Even something as simple as a bag to measure the amount of urine a patient passes depends on quality, as cheap ones provide less accurate readings, making it more difficult for health workers to assess the health of a patient and to treat him.

A doctor said: “The problem is that the price difference between a good product and a bad product is not huge, but regulations force hospitals to choose the cheapest. Little money is saved in exchange for safety. patients.”

Thuc said bidding rules needed to be changed to allow hospitals to pick the best-priced products, not the lowest-priced, based on their needs.

The regulations, which are part of a circular issued by the Ministry of Health in 2020, follow major scandals involving the purchase of drugs and medical equipment.

Nguyen Quoc Anh, former head of Hanoi’s main public hospital Bach Mai, was arrested in September 2020 and sentenced to five years in prison last January for inflating the price of an imported robotic neurosurgery system.

In March, former vice health minister Cao Minh Quang was detained pending investigation for “negligence” after he failed to verify the implementation of imported drugs by a pharmaceutical company.

Police said Quang did not check or assess the terms of purchasing medicinal ingredients at discounted prices negotiated by the Cuu Long Pharmaceutical Joint Stock Company.

This failure led authorities to miss the fact that the pharmaceutical company was able to obtain a rebate of $3.848 million on a purchase between 2006 and 2010.

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