Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Culture experiences

I was shocked by the news on Sept 23 in Vietnam News entitled “Traffic safety month sees rise in accidents”
The ministry of public security’s road traffic department released data showing rises in both the number of accidents and the numbers of deaths and injuries. It recorded 627 accidents with 460 fatalities and 528 injuries from the beginning of September to September 15…This issue didn’t follow a logic of more patrols and heavy punishments would reduce the number of violations… The government of Vietnam has requested Japan to help fund a project in order to improve traffic conditions on urban and major national road systems.
What shocks me is not only the number of traffic accidents in 2 weeks but also the measures the government took in order to tackle the issue. It seems requesting funds from other countries is the first step of solving problems. Germany donates US3.75 million to improve health services; NIH from US helps to fight HIV… the list can go miles long. The problem is when these funds dry up, what measures would the government take to keep the work going? Could they adapt from the experiences and develop ways to meet their own needs? It’s like the project I am working on right now. We showed them how to make a faster and more reliable diagnosis on encephalitis, but it seems to me the hospital isn’t going to implement this technique to their lab. Actually, I have been trying to push everybody to do something that should have been done before my arrival. I would have to say almost nothing was prepared when I arrived. The only difference from the last time I visited was some new equipment, scattered in different rooms of the lab. I have been asked this sensitive issue of “the budget” many times and I got the feeling that they will do whatever they have to do to get the funding for the next year but that’s about it, nothing more. That means if we are going to evaluate the project of clinical trial of EV71 at the end of the year then that’s the only project they are going to invest money in. Of course finance is a big issue here, but it’s the system that makes finance a problem here if you ask me. There are some doctors who don’t like the system as well, but their voice won’t be heard because of their ranking in the hospital. I wonder if someday these once considered “heretical” doctors reach the top level; would they stick to the ideals they were pursuing when they were in a lower ranking or would they be perverted and see only the so-called “a big picture”? Maybe they would never reach the core by possessing different thoughts. From where I stand, it seems the purpose of living here is not pursuing happiness but salvation.

I asked some of my friends how much they get paid for being a doctor here in Vietnam and the answer was almost unbelievable, which is only USD 30 per month. How can anybody survive when a bottle of water costs one third of your daily salary? No wonder everybody packs their bags and leaves at 16:00 promptly everyday then heads to their private clinics where doctors here nicknamed them fish farms and fishing means examining patients. The purpose of staying in a government run hospital is to gain reputation. It’s like paving the road with lure to attract fish to the fish farm so they can do the fishing, except the lure is the reputation and the fish are patients. So there is a unique paradox here: everybody works hard, after all, most people have two jobs, yet they seem to not take it seriously.

No comments: