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Vietnam is fast becoming a popular choice amongst expats as the country offers the ideal combination of good earning potential, low cost of living and high quality of life. Expats moving to Vietnam will find a healthcare system which combines aspects of Eastern and Western medicines to treat most medical issues.
Plans are currently underway to develop a universal healthcare system to cover all those legally residing in Vietnam for basic medical care. As it stands, most Vietnamese citizens have to pay for medical services themselves at both public and private hospitals. In many cases, people that can afford it opt to use private facilities as these tend to be better equipped and more efficient.
Expats who live in Vietnam often report that the standard of the country’s public hospitals is not on par with what they would be accustomed to.
Public hospitals in Vietnam are often underfunded and inadequately equipped. Doctors and medical staff at these facilities generally only speak Vietnamese. Furthermore, waiting times can be frustratingly long. In rural areas, the quality and availability of healthcare is considerably worse, and in some of the more remote parts of the country public healthcare is almost non-existent.
For these reasons, it makes sense that expats as well as many Vietnamese people opt for private treatment wherever possible.
Thankfully, the standard of private hospitals in Vietnam is excellent and more or less in line with standards which most expats would be used to. Private hospitals in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City are often staffed by doctors and medical professionals who completed their studies in the USA, Korea, Japan and France. Furthermore, as doctors in these hospitals have often trained overseas, they are generally likely to speak good English and/or French.
Most basic treatment at private healthcare facilities will be covered by an international health insurance policy. The cost associated with specialists such as dentists or dermatologists can vary considerably so expats should research which elective treatments their health insurance policy covers. While prices for specialist treatment are still relatively cheaper than what one would pay in many other countries, practices which market themselves for expats tend to charge more than those that work with the local population.
As such, it is essential that all expats in Vietnam invest in comprehensive international health insurance to cover the high costs associated with private healthcare.
As the national health insurance plan in Vietnam is still a work in progress, locals that can afford it tend to arrange private cover. For expats, it is best to invest in an international health insurance policy before arriving in the country.
Wherever possible expats are advised to check with hospitals and insurance companies to ensure that their procedures will be fully covered. Furthermore, expats should opt for a policy which covers them for medical evacuation and treatment outside Vietnam. In many cases, expats and wealthier Vietnamese people travel to Bangkok or Singapore for better treatment and emergency care.
Pharmacies and medication
Expats can rest assured that pharmacies in Vietnam are well represented within bigger towns and cities. They are usually located on any shopping street or in malls, and are generally well-stocked.
Purchasing medicine over the counter is pretty straightforward. However, expats should keep an eye out for counterfeit medicines or drugs which have expired. More reputable pharmacies are those attached to private hospitals or clinics.
By taking some basic precautions expats can minimise the chances of experiencing major health hazards during their stay in Vietnam.
Tap water in Vietnam isn’t generally safe for drinking and expats should always try to use bottled water instead. Avoiding ice in drinks at bars and restaurants is also recommended.
Temperatures in Vietnam can soar. Sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration are significant problems for new arrivals to the country. Always wear sunscreen with high UV protection. Those who plan on spending a significant amount of time in the Vietnamese countryside are advised to go on a course of malaria medication.
All basic vaccinations should be up-to-date before moving to Vietnam. Those travelling from parts of South America and Africa may be required to be in possession of yellow fever certificate.
In the event of any medical emergency, the number to call in Vietnam is 115. Unfortunately, ambulance response times are generally slow. Furthermore, paramedics don’t necessarily speak English and equipment may be substandard.
Most private hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi operate faster and more efficient private ambulance services.