The health care system in Vietnam has long been cited as an example of primary health care that worked well. Vietnam brought down the rates of infant and under-five mortality as well as child mortality rates. Maternal mortality has also fallen dramatically, as have deaths from infectious diseases.

However, still several major challenges need to be tackled. These include the disparity in child mortality and maternal mortality rates, as well as the control of infectious diseases among marginalized groups and ethnic minorities. There are also concerns about the fight against new and re-emerging (infectious) diseases such as cholera, measles, dengue fever, HIV/AIDS, avian flu, Japanese encephalitis and SARS. In addition, like in other rapidly developing economies, non-infectious communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and mental disorders are a growing concern. Furthermore, liberalization of economic policies has encouraged private medical practice and free trade in medicines and drugs, but financial support for the state health system remains inadequate. State hospitals are overcrowded, parts of the population are not being covered by Vietnam’s state health care and private health care expenses of a large part of the Vietnamese households exceed a reasonable fraction of their incomes.

There are more than 1,000 hospitals in Vietnam, but as mentioned above, this number does not satisfy the increasing demand. Statistics from the General Statistics Office of Vietnam showed that there are just 2.71 beds for every 1,000 inhabitants, although the government set a target of 20.5 beds per 1,000. State-owned hospitals often cope with budgetary problems and cannot afford the latest equipment and treatments. The Vietnamese government would like to improve the issue and is currently drafting a new master plan up to 2020 on developing Vietnam’s health care systems.

According to the master plan on health care in Hanoi, 15 new state-owned hospitals will be built. In Ho Chi Minh City, 7 new hospitals with a total investment of VND 13,000 billion are being built. In other municipalities and provinces across the country, the development of health care system also draws much attention from local government.

Next to state-owned hospitals, private-owned establishments play a significant role in increasing the capacity of hospital facilities. Following World Trade Organization (WTO) admission in 2007, Vietnam allows foreign investors to set up 100% foreign-owned hospitals. These hospitals help improve service quality and reduce the financial burden on the country.