It may sound obvious, but staying healthy is one of the most important aspects of a well-lived life. Oddly enough, however, many of the expats living in Saigon, especially the ones from the younger generation, do not pay much mind to the matter of emergency response . Sure, you hopefully will never need it, but the odds are that you will need it at some point in your life. And when you do, you need to be prepared. To make sure you are ready for anything and that you are aware of your different options for an ambulance service or emergency response in Saigon, we have put together a quick overview of several different options.
Option 1: Call the Official Vietnamese Emergency Hotline
The first option is to call 115, Vietnam’s emergency response number.
First, let’s discuss pros.
- The staff are well trained. Saigon is becoming a renowned destination for medical tourism, and, although part of the reason for that is because services are quite cheap here, another reason is that medical training in Vietnam is extremely good.
- The service is made up of local employees, so they usually know the quickest routes to take and the best places in the city to take patients for any given malady.
Next, let’s talk about cons.
- First of all, and possibly most importantly, the ambulances lack medical equipment. They of course have basic things like stretchers, defibrillators, and tracheal tubes, but they do not have the advanced life support equipment that could make a huge difference in a dire emergency.
- The response time is usually pretty poor. Most hospitals in the city do not dedicate resources to stationing ambulances out in the city when an emergency is not actually happening, so they generally have to drive all the way from the hospital to the site of the emergency when anything happens. If the resident does not live very near a hospital and there is any traffic on the road, this can take 30 minutes or more assuming the hospital has at least one free ambulance to send right over to the scene (as explained below, this is often not the case).
- The operators do not generally speak English very well. This can be a serious problem for those who are just visiting Vietnam or for expats who do not know any Vietnamese.
- As most of those familiar with HCMC have probably noticed, the city’s services have had trouble scaling up along with its population boom. This is also true for the emergency response services, and, for this reason, the ambulance crews are usually stretched to capacity. This can amp up response time even further.
The good news is that public hospitals are beginning to institute a system of motorbike ambulances. The motorbikes, which are more agile than the vans that traditionally serve as an ambulance in Saigon, will likely cut down considerably on response time. They are also specially modified in order to carry all the medical equipment they need on-scene. Of course, many serious medical situations may render the victim unable to ride on a motorbike, so this will not necessarily be a game-changer in all cases.
Option 2: Ambu-Taxi
If you hurt yourself and need to go to a hospital, but you are absolutely positive your injury will not worsen if treatment is delayed a bit (assume 90 minutes, just to be safe), then taking a taxi to the hospital is fine. We do not recommend this course of action, though, unless you cannot speak Vietnamese and are not subscribed to this next service.
Option 3: EMR, HCMC’s Privately Run 24/7 Emergency Medical Response Provider
Unlike the public ambulance service, which you pay for only when you need it, EMR is a yearly subscription. Fortunately, it only costs 575.000 VND (about $25) per person per year. To some expats and travellers from nations where ambulances are equally available to everyone as a free service, it may seem a little extravagant to pay for an annual subscription. However, stack that 575.000 VND against the fees you would pay for medical response in the form of taxes in almost any other country. In comparison, EMR’s cost is negligible.
EMR ambulances are strategically positioned in high traffic areas all over the city, so response time is much quicker than with a public ambulance in Saigon — usually less than 15 minutes.
The typical ambulance which EMR users in Saigon is exceptionally well equipped. They have advanced technology capable of warding off virtually any injury for many hours.
The internationally certified medical professionals onboard the ambulances are educated about the entire Vietnamese hospital network, and they are willing to bring passengers as far away as Nha Trang if it means putting them in the best hospital for whatever health issues they are experiencing.
This service is affordable. Even those who are only going to be spending a few weeks in HCMC should definitely look into the subscription, as the peace of mind afforded by it is arguably well-worth 575.000 VND.
*9999 subscribers subscribing at a fee of VND 575,000/person/year entitles members to:
- Unlimited 24/7 bilingual medical support in English and Vietnamese.
- Immediate medical assistance starting the second you call from anywhere in Vietnam.
- Unlimited ambulance response service throughout HCMC.
- Protection against insurance premium increases during emergencies.
- We take emergency calls from non-subscribers calling from anywhere in Vietnam, but they will be charged commercial transport rates for any ambulance dispatch.
- Ambulance dispatch for non-subscribers will be charged per usage for a day call (between 8 am and 7 pm) at USD80 or VND1,880,000 and for a night call (between the hours of 7 pm and 8 am) at USD225 or VND5,287,500.
- Ambulance cost is exclusive of medications used on board
If you would like to contact EMR to find out how to pay for the subscription you can visit their page here.
Again, you will hopefully never have to use any of the options on this list. It’s always best to come prepared, though. For more information about locations of hospitals in Saigon you can visit our interactive map here.
Furthermore, if you would like to find out about life in Saigon you can visit Vietnam’s most up-to-date blog which is written by expats who have lived here for many years.