One thing that I found quite shocking were the hospitals in Vietnam. While foreign hospitals and clinics in the wealthier districts (districts 1,2, and 7) had what I would consider similar to the healthcare practices we find at home, one person per room and doctors spending at least ten minutes diagnosing and treating you, that was not the case in many other districts. I visited one hospital in the Ben Thanh district, which is considered one of the poorest districts. It was so crowded there was no space to even walk and I felt as if I had difficulty breathing.
Patients do not schedule appointments, but take a number and wait for hours until their number is called. As you walk up the stairs there are people sitting on the steps, in the hallways, eating, and passing time by as they wait for their loved ones. The rooms in the hospitals were about the size of a classroom in Turlington, maybe slightly bigger, with 6-8 beds in each room. However, in the pediatrics floor, there were 2 children per bed, 8 beds per room, thus approximately 16 children per room, not including the family members who would often sit on the ground comforting their child. Additionally random solicitors would walk into the hospital selling magazines and food for families who were waiting. I felt as if this type of setting would hinder the well-being of patients, as it would attract more types of viruses or illnesses that are airborne. It was a setting that seemed uncomfortable, as you were talking with a doctor there were many other patients in the room, preventing you from having any privacy. Furthermore doctors only talk to patients for 1-2 minutes at most, due to myriad of patients in desperate need of help. Doctors are afraid that if they spend too much time with one patient, then they dismiss the opportunity to help another.
The health system was not even something I really thought about until I visited the hospital. From my visit and my internship, I also learned that mental health practices are are nonexistent. Apparently, when it comes to what we consider mental health issues, many Vietnamese individuals couple mental health issues with possession by spirits and when studying the Vietnamese language you will find that almost no name for mental disabilities or disorders. Due to the lack of mental health recognition, there is a lack of mental health support. Often times many people who are believed to be born or have gone “crazy” will visit monks and nuns for counseling, a system that has been in place for ages. Since the only phycologists are international practitioners, only the wealthy can afford to visit these places and providing almost no support for the lower class, who have higher rates of mental illnesses.
Furthermore, many mental health disorders and disabilities are not yet recognized in Vietnam. Autism is currently undergoing a long process of being recognized, but there is a lot of controversy because once a disability is recognized, then the person diagnoised will recieve a monthtly or trimonthly stipend from the government. In spite of what some may think, this is a very important issue as many autistic children are discriminated against by their families, peers, teachers, and society. They are denied of needs, such as being apart of special classrooms, and forced to try and cope with what is considered the “norm”.