Healthcare inequality in Vietnam: the price of a kidney

Oanh is a 27-year-old kidney dialysis patient who lives in Hanoi with her partner Vinh. She moved to Hanoi from rural Me Linh District so that she can receive the hospital treatment she needs three times a week. Government health insurance covers the cost of her dialysis but Oanh has to cover the cost of her daily medication herself. She cannot afford to pay for a kidney transplant.

“I feel sad for myself when I see the prescriptions I cannot afford. People who can afford medicine are healthier. I feel that my life is too difficult and I am stuck. It is really unfair.”

Oanh earns around $50 a month unofficially selling tea in the hospital, which just about covers her medical costs, but as she lacks permission to work there she worries she will be stopped. 

Her partner’s income has to cover all other essentials, such as rent and food. Her parents have had to sell farmland and assets to cover the cost of her emergency care. 

“When people are sick, all poor families have to borrow money. If the government provided support when we are sick, I would have fewer burdens. My life wouldn’t be as hard.”

Both Oanh and her family are locked in a cycle of debt. She and her partner can’t even think about getting married or having a family because of this situation.

It shouldn’t be this way. With the right medical support dialysis patients can have a good quality of life and the ability to earn a livelihood.

Inequalities in health care in Vietnam

Vietnam’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years but people like Oanh are yet to fully profit from it. There are still 13 million people living in poverty – often ethnic minorities, women and people living in rural areas who face daily discrimination. 

As Oanh is all too aware, basic rights like medical treatment and an education come at a price:

  • Pregnant women from poor households are three times more likely to go without antenatal care. 
  • A quarter of the population lack health insurance and even those that are insured still have to pay extra in order to get the care they need. 
  • In 2012, having to find cash to pay for urgent medical care pushed more than 580,000 Vietnamese families into - or further into - poverty.

Act now to achieve an economy for the 99%

We can choose another future. A future where governments act to help everyone, where people are put before profits and everyone is given a fair chance.

Inequality is growing around the world. Just eight men now have the same wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people. The 1% now has more wealth than the other 99% combined. The rules of our economy seem to benefit wealthy corporations and elites at the expense of everyone else.

Oanh is fighting inequality. Join her to demand an economy that works for everyone, not just the few. Sign our petition and learn more about our campaign “Even It Up".