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Doctor finds fulfillment on remote island

Update: March, 24/2015 - 17:11
Heart-felt: Dr. Luan Thanh Truong examines a child on Can Gio Island. His dedication has won the doctor the gratitude and admiration of the island's residents, especially those who are poor. — VNS Photo Hoang Tuyet

After volunteering to work on a remote island in HCM City, Doctor Luan Thanh Truong has faced numerous difficulties, but being able to help the most needy people makes up for everything. Hoang Tuyet and Trung Hieu talk to the doctor and some of his grateful patients.

Graduating from the Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine, Dr Truong, whose home is in Go Vap District of HCM City, had volunteered to work in Can Gio, a remote district on the outskirts of the city.

He volunteered to work on the island commune of Thanh An after hearing that a doctor had left the island because he could not stand the hard work and difficult life on the island.

During the more than seven years he has lived on the commune, Truong has examined and treated many of the local residents. Therefore, the people trust and love him exceedingly.

During a visit to the island, we travelled along a main concrete road to the commune's health station, after getting off on the wharf of the island commune.

We had earlier assumed that for a commune with a lot of social problems, the clinic must be bad. However, we were surprised to encounter a clinic as spacious and clean and one that looked like a small hospital.

It was clear that the motto of "clinics of national health standards" was followed on this island.

This clinic has various professional rooms with personnel and modern equipment in keeping with the national standards for communes' health care.

The clinic had six members, including a doctor, a physician, a nurse, a midwife, a druggist, a laboratory technician, in addition to 12 medical collaborators, who reside in hamlets.

All of them are dedicated to medical care, which is totally free, and implementing national health programmes for the approximately 4,500 residents of the 1,165 households on the island.

Le Thanh Van, vice chairman of Thanh An Commune People's Committee, said: "The staff of the clinic is dedicated to their job. They impart public health care, especially for the poor, very well. At the same time, the clinic also prevents and repels diseases in time and does not let epidemics break out in the area. Therefore, communal leaders and the local people are very excited and trust them with their hearts."

Being the chief of the clinic, Dr Truong undertake all cases, from orthopaedics, eye, ear, nose or throat and even helps pregnant women deliver when the midwife is absent, as she also attends a medical school.

"Due to the considerable distance between the mainland and the island, many doctors are afraid to work here. However, because of my affection for the people, I had volunteered to work though I knew that the commune has so many social difficulties. Even now, we still face many difficulties in professional work, such as difficult cases that need urgent referrals to high level hospitals. If we were on the mainland, we could easily transfer patients to high level hospitals in case of serious emergency, but on the island, referral is very hard, especially during bad weather."

"However, as we have to cope with these difficulties, we feel more sympathetic and want to share the burden of the poor people," said Dr Truong.

Dedicated to healing

Born and brought up in a family of six brothers and sisters, Truong decided to pursue the medical profession after he fell seriously ill during childhood and had been saved by a physician.

However, it was not easy to pursue the job, because he had to patiently retake the exam six times before he could enrol in the Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine.

As he volunteered to work in communes with special geographical conditions, from the Ly Nhan isle commune (in the middle of a river) to the Thanh An Island on the sea, his first priority was to always care for the sick.

"While I was working at Ly Nhan commune's health care station, a patient with urinary retention due to prostate fibroids called me for help one night in the middle of a heavy downpour. The patient's house was located next to a river bank and had no electricity. Even though the rainfall was heavy and the river water kept rising, I went there, and could barely see the river or its shore."

"However, because the patient was in need, I followed the trees and fences that had remained above the water, trying to clutch my way to his house. After catheterizing, the patient was able to urinate and burst into tears and started thanking me," Dr Truong recalled.

"In another instance that took place on the island commune of Thanh An, when we had to transfer a patient to the district hospital, a female colleague was shocked to see a pregnant woman being taken to the district hospital, who managed to stay alive after struggling on the boat in a thunderstorm for more than an hour, and braving the rain and wind on the voyage to the mainland. These images are still etched in my mind and only strengthen my resolve to not leave this land."

The reason Dr Truong is loved so much is that he always cares for people, whatever the circumstances.

Nguyen Thi Muoi, a woman who has lived on the island for more than four decades, expressed her appreciation for the doctor.

"We have rarely seen a doctor who is so devoted and cares for patients as wholeheartedly as Dr Truong. Whenever we go to the clinic for examination, he always advises us very carefully and enthusiastically."

"Even if we call him outside his working hours, the doctor does not charge us."

"Those who do not have money sometimes give the doctor a chicken, some eggs, or dried fish. He does not ask for it. It is just their way of expressing their gratitude." — VNS

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