Medics, volunteers battle to keep HCM City safe from coronavirus

Update: July, 30/2021 - 14:17


WORKING TOGETHER: More people with a medical background are needed for the fight against COVID-19. Photo courtesy of

Việt Nam News reporters in HCM City

Doctors, nurses, volunteers and even artists in Hồ Chi Minh City have been pulling together to boost morale and help in the battle against the novel coronavirus, with the city deep in lockdown.

An extension of the lockdown period and stricter measures to combat the disease have been implemented to curb the infection rate and prevent the local medical system from collapsing.

Having nearly 79,000 infections [among some 120,000 cases nationwide] by midweek, HCM City needs support from as many medical staff as possible, especially from neighbouring provinces.

Dr Đỗ Kim Quế, deputy director of Thống Nhất Hospital, recently led an army of 90 of so-called “white blouse” soldiers to a coronavirus treatment hospital in Thủ Đức City.

DISTANCE NO OBJECT: Many university students, doctors and nurses from Huế have come to HCM City to offer assistance. Photo courtesy of

Nurse Nguyễn Thị Bích Đào has asked her husband to take care of their children at home, as she plans to work for a month and quarantine for several days before heading home. However, if the disease is not yet under control, she will work longer.

On July 24, renowned Vietnamese saxophonist Trần Mạnh Tuấn played a concert outside hospitals No 3 and No 6 for up to 10,000 patients and medical staff in HCM City. A video of the performance went viral.

“There were thousands of patients and doctors. They all took out their phones and started filming and cheered. For a moment there it felt like they had forgotten all the struggles and difficulties they experienced in the last few days, and all was left was the excitement brought about by the music and songs,” said Tuấn.

“To me that was like providing them with a medicine. Together with the doctors’ regimens, music is like a medicine that helps to heal the soul somewhat.”

BATTLE READY: A group of doctors and nurses, led by deputy director of Thống Nhất Hospital Đỗ Kim Quế, prepare to “enter the battle”. Photo courtesy of

Meanwhile, Dr Nguyễn Gia Bình from Huế University of Medicine and Pharmacy Hospital said on his Facebook page that he felt much love from HCM City residents. “On sunny days, locals bring out mobile shelters and ice water for the medical team in charge of taking virus samples,” he said.

Even though Bình is not able to take off his mask to drink the water, he appreciates the care shown by local people.

Hằng Nga, a medical employee from Đà Nẵng City’s Hospital 119, had a similar experience, adding that many patients had prepared small gifts, fresh vegetables and a basket of bread to encourage her team.

In addition to medical experts and staff from neighbouring provinces, many retired doctors have asked to be on the frontlines, and young doctors have also shared their support.

FOCUSED ON THE JOB: Doctors and nurses work at a COVID-19 treatment hospital in Thủ Đức City. Photo courtesy of

Busy days

Đặng Thanh Hào, a young doctor from HCM City Cancer Hospital, has participated in the fight against the pandemic for some time.

He told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper that the work in quarantine areas is three to four times harder than during casual days at his hospital.

“A team of 13 to 15 medical staff has to examine and care for 400 to 500 quarantined patients. In addition to professional tasks such as daily health checks and emergency medical care for patients, we are responsible for taking care of patients’ meals and their psychological concerns during the isolation period,” said Dr Hào.

There have been days when his team had to receive new patients between 6am and 1am while they were wearing sweaty medical protective suits without having time for dinner.

During such moments, each member could only look at each other and express encouragement while giving each other a few pats on the back.

“On better days, we are able to cook more delicious dishes and make milk tea to keep our positive energy going,” he added.

Members of his team have even raised a fund to support patients that were not able to pay for their meals, which had cost VNĐ80,000 per day but are now free.

“It is not much as there are other people in society who can do greater things. We did it because we understand that no one wants to be quarantined. If we have enough strength, we will still take care of each other,” he said.

STAYING SAFE: Young doctors and medical staff from Quảng Nam are happy to help in the fight against the pandemic. Photo courtesy of

Dr Hào, together with many young doctors, has to continue the fight in August as there will be more cases due to the faster transmission rate of the Delta variant of the virus.

“We have to prepare ourselves mentally that the possibility of being infected is higher. Better protection and strict adherence to infection prevention rules are crucial for us,” he said.

Trương Nhựt Cường, a doctor from HCM City Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation and currently on site at an isolation zone in HCM City National University, is having a similar experience.

Though ready, he said he was still surprised when receiving a request to serve in an isolation zone. 

“I finally understand the feeling of waking up every morning in a 'ready to fight' state. Every day is an extremely stressful battle and anything can happen,” he said.

Dr Cường and his team’s role is to arrange rooms for quarantined patients, check on their health status twice a day, and transfer patients with positive test results from the quarantine areas to hospitals offering coronavirus treatment.

Dr Cường and other medical staff must wake up during the night for special cases, such as when a pregnant patient who showed signs of giving birth at 36 weeks and five days had to be transferred to another hospital or when a small boy whose parents tested positive for the disease had to be taken care of.

That said, Dr Cường has faith that the university area will soon welcome students back once the city returns to normal.

Dr Hào and Cường, similar to many young doctors, said they had learned the valuable lesson of love during this difficult period, stating that support from family, colleagues and locals motivated them to keep moving forward.

City needs more support

All hospitals offering coronavirus treatment need more human resources to effectively fight the battle.

According to Deputy Minister of Health Nguyễn Trường Sơn on July 24, medical facilities in HCM City can only handle 30,000 cases while the rest need support from the entire health sector.

“For a 1,000-bed hospital with COVID-19 treatment to operate smoothly, about 1,362 medical staff are needed,” said Deputy Minister Sơn.

Dr Nguyễn Tri Thức, who is in charge of a hospital with COVID-19 treatment, said that the total number of 835 medical staff at his hospital was not sufficient to take good care of patients in critical condition.

To ease the problem, Deputy Minister Sơn issued a letter calling for people with medical backgrounds, including active and retired doctors and medical officers, medical lecturers and students, as well as members of health associations, to help relieve some of the burden on the healthcare system in HCM City.

More than 2,000 volunteers, consisting of nearly 1,900 residents of HCM City and 200 from other provinces, immediately signed up.

Joining the frontline now are about 300 doctors, 400 nurses, 200 pharmacists and people who work in other fields, according to Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) newspaper.

Eighty of the volunteers are under 20 years old, while about 1,800 volunteers are between 20 and 50, and about 120 are over 50.

The HCM City Department of Health is planning to assign 80 experienced doctors and 50 skilled nurses to coronavirus treatment hospitals, while the rest will work at other medical facilities across all districts. 

Even though the number of volunteers is expected to grow, more human resources and support from the Government and Ministry of Health are needed.

Earlier, the medical authority in HCM City said that of the 1,500 additional doctors needed, 200 should be resuscitation doctors. Of the 5,500 additional nurses needed, 800 to 1,000 resuscitation nurses are needed.

Deputy Minister Sơn said that in addition to treating patients with mild symptoms, HCM City needed resuscitation doctors handling serious cases. 

“The rate of severe cases and deaths is showing signs of increasing, which may be partly due to the overload of the emergency resuscitation system. At this time, it is crucial to slow down the progression of severe cases or else we will not have enough medical machines to meet demand,” a doctor said.

It is going to be a long battle for HCM City, especially for medical staff, but by pulling together they expect to succeed.  VNS