Provincial Authorities Step In to Avert Healthcare Crisis in Laos

Dengue patients sleep in makeshift beds at Vientiane's Mahosot hospital during an outbreak in 2019.
Dengue patients sleep in makeshift beds at Vientiane's Mahosot hospital during an outbreak in 2019.

Provincial health departments in Laos have urgently intervened to countermand regulations issued by struggling provincial hospitals mandating patients bring their own medicines due to depleted stocks. 

Major public hospitals in Khammouane and Salavanh provinces released notices one after the other this week stating that their supply of medicines had run out and that pharmaceutical suppliers had refused to provide more due to outstanding debts.

The alarming situation has sparked concerns of a healthcare crisis, with both hospitals stating that members of the social insurance scheme would be unable to make claims during the unprecedented situation.

Khammouane Hospital also said in its initial notice that additional charges would apply for treatments such as dialysis and various surgical procedures, inclusive of patients covered by health insurance.

But both notices issued by Khammouane and Salavanh hospitals were overruled under new notices issued by health authorities in the two provinces.

A notice issued Wednesday by the Director of Khammouane Health Department stated that patients requiring treatment at the provincial hospital or at community healthcare centers would receive treatment as normal, inclusive of those covered by the social insurance scheme. 

Meanwhile, Salavanh’s provincial office responded to the escalating medical crisis a day later, on Thursday vowing a prompt resolution. Reassuring the public, authorities pledged that patients would continue to receive essential treatment and medications without disruption.

The intervention by provincial authorities has provided relief to the public, however, speculation continues as to the continued challenges faced by the health sector amid worsening economic conditions.