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New Draft of Medical Treatment Law to Require Foreign Doctors to Speak Vietnamese

Foreign medical professionals working in Vietnam might be required to learn Vietnamese in the future.

Nguoi Lao Dong reports that Vietnam’s Ministry of Health is gathering feedback for a new draft amendment to the country’s Law on Medical Examination and Treatment (MET). Among the various changes introduced in this draft, one that’s drawing attention is a new language requirement to be imposed on foreign medical practitioners.

According to Nguyen Huy Quang, head of the health ministry’s Legal Department, the amendment requires medical staff who are foreigners or overseas Vietnamese to have Vietnamese-language proficiency to directly diagnose and treat Vietnamese patients. The level of fluency is certified by ministry-approved language institutions. Local language fluency is not a new health policy; within Southeast Asia, Thailand and Indonesia already have similar requirements.

In an interview with the newspaper, Tang Chi Thuong, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health, explained that the language requirement was a suggestion from Saigon because municipal health officials have observed that interpreters can’t ensure effective communication between foreign doctors and local patients, putting patients in danger.

A direct line of communication from physicians to patients is expected to help cut down the range of medical scams Saigon has unearthed in recent months. These refer to fraudulent schemes by some private clinics in the city, which tricked patients into treating ailments they do not have at exorbitant prices.

Deputy Director of Tu Du Hospital Nguyen Ba My Nhi told Tuoi Tre in a previous interview that her hospital frequently receives patients with major obstetric complications, who were in one way or another involved with such private facilities, usually staffed with Chinese doctors. There are many discrepancies between the treatment plan and the diagnosis, and between the patient’s illness and the medical cost, she explained.

Apart from adding a Vietnamese-language requirement, the amendment also proposes putting a time limit on medical licenses. According to data by the health ministry, since MET took effect nine years ago, more than 360,000 medical licenses have been granted. Vietnam, however, remains among the countries where these licenses are given out on a permanent basis. Some health experts believe that providing five-year licenses that have to be renewed will prompt medical practitioners to constantly stay on top of technological advancements in their fields.

[Photo via Flickr account Military Sealift Command]