|COVID-19 patients get into an ambulance from Sài Gòn Medical Clinic to be transported to hospital. — Photo courtesy of the clinic’s director Trần Văn Dương
HCM CITY — At 11pm on July 26, Trần Văn Dương, the director of Sài Gòn Medical Clinic in HCM City’s Bình Chánh District, and his staff transported several COVID-19 patients to field hospital No.11 in Thủ Đức city.
“Transporting is carried out day and night. Whenever we get calls from health centres, we immediately go on duty,” Dr Dương said.
For several months, Dương and his staff have stayed at the medical clinic to be ready to transport and provide medical assistance to COVID-19 patients at home.
Recognising the shortage of ambulances, Dương contacted the city Department of Health to ask for permission to volunteer in the fight against COVID-19.
The clinic staff work in two teams during day and night shifts to transport and provide oxygen cylinders and provide first aid as well as other online medical consultancies to COVID-19 patients isolated at home.
“In the beginning, we took COVID-19 patients including children to hospitals. I was moved when I saw a father holding his 6-month-old baby,” Dương said. “When several patients called to ask for help at 1am or 2am, I immediately brought oxygen cylinders to their home and showed them how to use them. The next day, their family called me to say that their health was more stable. Hearing this good news, I felt happy."
Dương has been receiving more calls from health centres and relatives of COVID-19 patients.
“On the Facebook group, I wrote that I was ready to provide medical assistance to COVID-19 patients. Nearly 20 people called me to double check because they did not believe that I was a doctor. I had to try to convince them that I was a real doctor,” Dương said.
“The emotion between people can be seen. Any death is a big loss. Although the risk of contracting COVID-19 is high, we are not afraid. We hope people in the city strictly comply with regulations so that the city can return to so-called normal life,” Dương said.
|Sài Gòn Medical Clinic staff transport an oxygen cylinder to a COVID-19 patient isolated at home. Photo courtesy of the clinic’s director Trần Văn Dương
Nguyễn Thị Kim Yến, of the Sài Gòn Medical Clinic’s staff, has also joined the team to transport COVID-19 patients to hospitals. Yến is in charge of helping the patients get into and out of the ambulance, and also provides other aid.
“In the last month and a half, I have gone home only one time, to put powdered milk in front of my home because I do not dare hold my 4-year-old son. I am working in an environment with high transmission risk. My son and I only talk on the phone. He said to me once that mommy has joined the fight against COVID-19,” she said.
The Nhất Tâm Charity non-profit organisation and Apollo Silicone Joint Stock Company have also set up volunteer teams and ambulances to transport COVID-19 patients to hospitals.
Speaking at a press meeting on Tuesday, Nguyễn Hoài Nam, deputy head of the city Department of Health, emphasised the importance of timely transportation of COVID-19 patients from their homes to hospitals or between hospitals.
Asymptomatic COVID-19 patients isolated at home who become worse should be transported rapidly to hospitals, he said.
The city Health Department and 115 Emergency Aid Centre have encouraged private health facilities and others to use their ambulances to transport COVID-19 patients.
Public health facilities have a total of 85 ambulances, while the city has nearly 120 ambulances, some of which have been donated by companies. In the next two weeks, the number is expected to increase by 100.
The city is changing the function of 200 taxis to be used as ambulances to meet demand. About 400 oxygen cylinders have been donated and will be stored in the taxis, according to Nam.
Fifteen coaches have also been converted to transport COVID-19 patients and sent to districts and Thủ Đức city to use.
To have enough ambulance drivers, the 115 Emergency Aid Centre is seeking volunteers with a B2 driving licence.
Nguyễn Hoài Linh, 28, a teacher at Võ Thị Sáu High School in Bình Thạnh District, has registered to become a volunteer driver. Linh is trained in disease prevention and control, and how to wear protective clothing and disinfect ambulances.
“I comply with regulations to protect myself. I try to take COVID-19 patients to hospitals as soon as possible. The patients thank me. I hope I can contribute a small part to help the city control the outbreak,” Linh said.
|Sài Gòn Medical Clinic staff transport a COVID-19 patient to a hospital for treatment. Photo courtesy of the clinic’s director Trần Văn Dương
Private health centres
Sài Gòn Medical Clinic is one of the first private health facilities in the city to work along with public clinics in the fight against COVID-19 and share the burden of transporting COVID-19 patients to hospitals.
Because of the increase in COVID-19 patients, the Ministry of Health on July 24 called on all public and private health facilities as well as retired doctors to join the fight.
On August 1, Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long checked the operation of an intensive care centre for severe COVID-19 cases, saying that the city needed assistance from private health clinics.
Private hospitals joining the fight in the city include Hoàn Mỹ Thủ Đức International General Hospital in Thủ Đức city, Triều An Hospital and City International Hospital in Bình Tân District, Xuyên Á Hospital in Củ Chi District and Nam Sài Gòn General Hospital in District 7.
These hospitals admit COVID-19 patients at the third level of the five-level treatment model, which means they are moderate cases with underlying medical conditions that need to be treated.
The Hoàn Mỹ Thủ Đức International General Hospital on Monday (August 2) began admitting COVID-19 patients after one week of preparation. The hospital meets the criteria on medical equipment and facilities of a COVID-19 treatment hospital.
In the first phase, 100 beds on the second to fourth floors are being used. The number of beds will increase to 200 in the second phase.
Dr Nguyễn Tuấn, the hospital’s director, said: “Hoàn Mỹ’s health workers are ready to help frontline forces protect the health and life of the whole community.”
On August 1, the City International Hospital opened a treatment centre on the fifth floor, in collaboration with the HCM City University Medical Center.
The 50-bed centre has a separate pathway to ensure safety for areas serving patients with other diseases at the hospital.
Previously, the fifth floor was used as an isolation area for people who were suspected of contracting COVID-19. The hospital plans to use the sixth floor, which is under construction, to treat COVID-19 patients if necessary.
It began admitting COVID-19 patients on Tuesday.
Triều An Hospital has set aside 100 beds to treat COVID-19 patients in a separate area. Xuyên Á Hospital also has a separate facility with 125 beds to serve COVID-19 patients.
In a related matter, the vice chairman of People’s Committee, Dương Anh Đức, said that private health facilities have also assigned staff to help speed up the city’s vaccination drive. — VNS