Doctors treat patients for free at clinic in Ha Noi

Update: September, 15/2015 - 08:43

A doctor and a nurse, both retired, have provided free health checks for more than 20 years to patients in Ha Noi.—VNS Photo Kim Thuy

by Kim Thuy

HA NOI (VNS) — For more than 20 years, Dang Thi Nhan, 67, has been waking up about 30 minutes earlier each day to bake cakes or prepare tea for two retired doctors in a clinic near her house in Ha Noi's Giap Bat Ward.

That is all Nhan can offer as thanks to doctors who provide free health checks for herself, her paralysed husband and their 43-year-old disabled son.

"If one day they cannot take care of themselves and need some one to look after them, I will do it voluntarily till the day they are gone," Nhan said.

The small clinic, situated on Kim Dong Street, has become familiar to many people in Ha Noi. It was established in 1992 by Dr Truong Thi Hoi To, 84, a former principal of Nam Dinh Medical College, Le Thi Soc, 87, a retired nurse from Saint Paul Municipal Hospital, and Le Thanh Thuoc, the late deputy director of the Viet Nam National Cancer Hospital, who died last year.

The clinic used to open every Monday and Thursday. However, after doctor Thuoc died and due to the deteriorating health of the two other medics, the clinic now only opens on Monday mornings at 8 am.

Patients not only receive health checks, but they also receive free medicine. "We receive about 20 patients a day, mainly the elderly and the poor, who cannot afford health insurance", nurse Soc said.

Since 2014, the clinic has treated about 8,500 patients, according to Giap Bat ward's Red Cross Association. On its first days, the clinic faced numerous difficulties due to lack of money. To, founder of the clinic, had to spend her own pension and encourage her children and relatives to donate money to purchase medical equipment and medicine. The clinic also had to relocate seven times as To and her co-workers could not afford high rents.

Despite these difficulties, they never thought of giving up. "Being able to help my patients brings me unspeakable joy. This is also my life target. It warms my heart to see the happy faces of the patients," To said.

Duong Thi Thanh, 80, who suffers from blood high pressure and arthritis, has received health treatment at the clinic for more than five years. She has health insurance at the Viet Nam Military Hospital but prefers to be treated at the clinic.

"There are big differences," Thanh said. "At the hospital, I have to wait for my turn in a long queue as well as handle complicated administrative procedures, while at the clinic, I only have to wait for about five to 10 minutes.

"I also enjoy having conversations with other patients. Most of them are of my age and we can share with each other the problems of the old."

Giap Bat ward resident Nguyen Dung, 55, was paralysed in a car accident. He also suffered from post-traumatic amnesia. Now he lives with his 80-year-old father and relies completely on his relatives' allowance.

For eight years, he has received free health check-ups and medicine from doctor To. To goes to his house to examine him every two months and medicine is sent to him every week.

"My son's health has been in stable condition," his father said. "To and Soc even bring gifts and give us money. Without their help, our lives would be desperate."

Tran Thi Toan, 64, from the northern Nam Dinh Province, now works as a servant in Ha Noi. She is grateful to doctor To and nurse Soc not just for the free treatment, but for their caring manner.

"They give me meticulous treatment and clear, detailed instruction as well as advise me on a healthy and happy lifestyle," Toan said. "They treat me as a close member of their family."

Toan feels shy about her job, so the doctors' care and compassionate attitude have become her inspiration in life. "I feel respected, even though the service is free. There is no discrimination between the rich and the poor. Everyone is treated equally."

To the doctors, the most precious thing they receive from their patients is confidence in their skills, which can only be achieved through ethics and medical excellence.

"The success of a doctor does not lies in how much money they earn, but how many people they help", Soc said. However, To and Soc feel sad and worried as medical scandals start to erode people's faith in the health sector.

"About 30 years ago, when I still worked in a hospital, healthworkers never took bribes. We treated patients wholeheartedly without asking for anything in return," Soc said.

Sharing Soc's opinion, To said that medical practitioners should not consider their profession as a tool to get rich. "Medical practitioners should not benefit from their patients' pain. Patients come first, not money."

One of the reasons that keep patients loyal to the clinic is that they trust the doctors' medical skills. "Trust comes from small things, for example how doctors talk to patients," Soc said.

"To and Soc not only take care of their patients, but also as friends, as members of a big family. They develop close bonds with their patients", Bui Van Huyen, chairman of Giap Bat ward's Red Cross Association said.

"Sometimes, people test the doctors by going to a big hospital for a check-up to see if the results coincide with what they receive in the clinic. And with over 40 years of working experience, To has never disappointed one patient", Huyen said. — VNS