Lao President calls for upgrade of health services

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) -President Bounnhang Vorachit has called on health administrators to identity reasons for dissatisfaction with healthcare in Laos, as more people seek treatment across the border.

Mr Bounnhang made the call in his address at the annual national meeting of the health sector, which ended in Vientiane yesterday.

The government has tabled this issue as a critical part in the process of health sector reform following numerous public complaints about services at public hospitals and health centres.

More and more people are attending health facilities in neighbouring countries, especially Thailand, even though costs are much higher.

“I would like the ministry to investigate why so many people are going to neighbouring countries for healthcare,” President Bounnhang said.

He pointed out that even though they have trained at universities in Laos, local doctors are fully qualified and competent.

However, he expressed concern that not all doctors were professional in the course of their duties. He said that a lack of ethics could be one reason for public distrust in health services.

He said good manners were an important part of service and treatment, adding that treatment not only involved physical recovery but concern for  mental well-being.

President Bounnhang also advised health administrators to review policies regarding doctors and other medical personnel.

In addition, he called on health leaders at all levels to more closely follow political ideology in their dealings with medical personnel.

The president praised the efforts of the sector in striving for reform targets and the UN Millennium Development Goals, although some targets had yet to be achieved. 

The key issues tabled for discussion at the two-day meeting under the chairmanship of Minister of Health Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong included Universal Health Coverage towards 2025 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Also on the agenda were preparations for the sector’s midterm review, methods and measures for achieving targets using the 10 indicators approved by the National Assembly, coordination, and compliance with the budget allocated under the reform framework.

Participants also discussed the indicators that will contribute to tackling UN targets on graduation from least developed country status, especially malnutrition and mortality among children under five years of age, which Assoc. Prof. Dr Bounkong said were challenges.

Other topics of discussion were the improvement of knowledge and skills, political attributes, ethics and morals of medical personnel.

In his address, President Bounnhang urged the ministry to place importance on health and hygiene promotion, which he said should be imbued in the general public from childhood and while in school.

The president also stressed overall health sector reform, Universal Health Coverage, medical renovation, expansion of the health service network to remote rural areas, and service quality improvement in hospitals at the central and local levels.

He also called for more effective use of medical infrastructure and facilities provided through foreign assistance, and greater use of medicinal plants.