Cancer care in Vietnam receives a boost
At the recent ASEAN-Australia Summit, Australia’s leading cancer care provider Icon Group signed an agreement to collaborate with two of Vietnam’s leading healthcare providers. The MoU’s aim is to improve cancer control measures in Vietnam and strengtheni
With a population of 90 million Vietnam is one of the most populous, developing country in Asia. The Vietnamese government currently invests just 0.9 per cent of its GDP on healthcare and the country’s health systems are woefully understaffed and overburdened. Vietnam has alarming cancer rates with early 1,50,000 people diagnosed with the deadly disease each year. Lifestyle changes, tobacco use, exposure to occupational carcinogens, alcohol are some of the major reasons that are contributing to rise in incidences of cancer cases in the country.
According to WHO, an estimated 68,000 cancer cases were reported in Vietnam in 2000, and now the number of new diagnoses is expected to touch 190,000 by 2020. Experts expect a 70 per cent increase in cancer cases over the next two decades and without adequate oncology treatment facilities cancer will be a huge disease burden for the country. Cancer control measures in Vietnam have to deal with numerous challenges such as lack of accurate statistical data, shortage of resources and skilled doctors, lack of data on anti-tobacco programme and limited knowledge of general practitioners and public about cancer. So far, there is no comprehensive programme for screening and early detection of common cancers that cover nationwide. Most patients come in with last stage of cancer and cannot afford the costly treatments.
The spiraling cases and lack of appropriate measures to combat them have prompted the urgent need for quality cancer treatment in Vietnam. The government has realized the need and is also stepping up efforts to beef up cancer control measures. The Cancer Control Network (2011–2020), was established by the Ministry of Health to raise cancer awareness among the people in the community, establish screening and early detection of procedures, improve the knowledge of healthcare staff, and strengthen cancer surveillance and registries. The National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP) was started in 2008 to provide effective diagnosis and treatment. NCCP aims to enhance the cancer workforce and infrastructure with improvements in the quantity and quality of medical staff in cancer control as well as cancer treatment facilities.
As per the WHO statistics, there are, an average of 7 to 8 healthcare workers and 25 hospital beds for every 10,000 Vietnamese citizens. A shortage of qualified medical staff is common in many hospitals. Doctors and nurses work under stressful conditions and wages
are relatively low. Vietnam’s government has made plans for the intervention to enhance the healthcare workforce by 2020.These plans include strengthening regulatory practices, increased autonomy for public hospitals and incentives for the private sector.
“Vietnam’s healthcare system is being challenged to make health services easily accessible and meet the growing needs for chronic illness management,” said Stuart Giles, Co-Founder, Icon Group Chairman. “Most hospitals in the country are outdated and face chronic overcrowding. Hospitals in major cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi often do not have the capacity to serve both local and provincial patients. Much of the existing medical equipment in public hospitals in Vietnam are obsolete and need replacement. Many hospitals lack sufficient equipment for surgery and intensive care units.”
Icon Group, Australia’s leading cancer care provider, inked a MoU with two of Vietnam’s leading healthcare providers – The National Cancer Hospital in Hanoi (the K Hospital) and the Military 175 Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Through this, Icon hopes to transform cancer care systems in Vietnam, develop large scale cancer care infrastructure, implement an international standard in medical excellence across hospital management, and leverage innovative technologies to deliver remote care where it is needed.
Vietnamese public hospitals rely largely on a state budget to upgrade their facilities, equipment, and services. The total budget for the health sector has increased, but is still too low to meet the demands. Giles further said, “The total budget for the health sector has increased – spending on private healthcare grew 241 per cent over the past decade. And healthcare spending now accounts for 7.2 per cent of Vietnam’s GDP – the highest in the region. But the Vietnamese healthcare system cannot keep up with the demand for medical services.”
“Through these MoU’s we aim to strengthen these healthcare providers’ ability to deliver world class cancer care and treatments in Vietnam by collaborating with Icon Group. These projects will see significant financial investment in the region, with the funds dedicated to improving the quality of cancer care in Vietnam. Icon Group will work closely with its partners, leveraging its unique strengths in cancer care, including clinical skills, resources and services, to help Vietnam build an international cancer care system and associated facilities. Icon’s Australian and Singaporean cohort of experts will provide input to help health providers meet this demand, while supporting them to build local capacity for the future. This includes infrastructure development, implementation of an international standard in medical excellence across hospital management, and leveraging innovative technologies to deliver remote care. Icon’s first step is to build off Icon SOC’s current commitment to cancer care in Vietnam, via our doctor-led satellite clinics, and extend this into delivering on-site cancer treatment for the people of Vietnam,” he added.
Beyond Singapore and Vietnam, Icon has also established a presence in China. Icon Group signed a Commissioning and Operational Management Service Agreement for cancer centers to be built with Guangzhou University of Traditional Medicine (GUOTM) Jin Sha Zhou Hospital and Chengde Chong Yuan Investment Group Co in January 2017. The agreement will see Icon Group managing design, construction and commissioning of all three radiation oncology centers, while delivering clinical operational management. This will includes training, education, technical expertise and quality assurance to ensure the residents of Guangzhou, Chengde and surrounding areas receive world-class cancer care. Icon SOC is also involved in active early stage projects in the Philippines and Indonesia.
“By these collaborations we aim to identify the challenges, needs and approach to implement international standards for cancer care and treatment. This in turn will enhance the capacity and effectiveness of treatment, reducing the cost of treatment via the input of remote technologies and expertise, while still ensuring quality of the care provided. Local and overseas training programmes for doctors, nurses and pharmacists, and the provision of service support, will help bridge the gap between demand and resource availability, while building local capacity moving forward,” concluded Giles.