Memorable days for volunteer medics at COVID-19 treatment field hospital in HCM City

October 13, 2021 - 10:09

The three months of fighting the coronavirus to save the lives of COVID-19 patients in HCM City will never be forgotten by Dr Nguyễn Ngọc Thành and other medical staff who volunteered to come to the city from northern Quảng Ninh Province.


Volunteer medics from Quảng Ninh Province at COVID-19 treatment field hospital No.12 in HCM City. — Photo courtesy of the hospital

HCM CITY — The three months of fighting the coronavirus to save the lives of COVID-19 patients in HCM City will never be forgotten by Dr Nguyễn Ngọc Thành and other medical staff from the northern province of Quảng Ninh who have volunteered to come to assist the southern city.

Packing up recently to leave the hospital, Thành said the three-month period has been a valuable experience for him and his colleagues.

The staff always stood shoulder to shoulder to fight the virus.

“After 10 years in the profession, this was the most special business trip, and also my first time fighting a pandemic,” he said.

On July 13, Thành along with others on the volunteer medical team left Quảng Ninh to join force with the frontline medical teams of the southern city as it battled a severe outbreak that sees caseload and deaths surging to unprecedented levels.

They carried out their work at the COVID-19 Treatment Field Hospital No.12 in Thủ Đức City, which is slated to close in November, now that cases have dwindled.

Hospitalised patients are screened and classified. Severely ill patients are taken to the emergency room, put on a ventilator and closely monitored.

Every day, doctors check the patients while nurses measure their heart rates, temperature, blood oxygen levels, and administer drugs to the patients.

On the first days of work, the team faced difficulties due to a shortage of medical equipment, Thành said.

The number of hospitalised patients skyrocketed, with hundreds of patients on peak days and about 30 severe emergency cases.

"The hospital was under great pressure, but everything was new to me. I am not a doctor specialising in emergency resuscitation, so I had to learn from work experience," he said.

He said the most severe case was a 67-year-old patient with a history of hypertension and diabetes.

The patient showed severe symptoms and was transferred to the emergency department. Thành assigned the patient to be put on a high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) for breathing support.

After 10 days of treatment and monitoring, the patient's health status gradually improved and he was weaned off the HFNC before switching to an oxygen mask and later being discharged.

Most patients are treated for 7- 10 days before they are discharged. Only about 20 per cent of infections turn critical and need more time for treatment and recovery.

Only one death related to COVID-19, a male patient aged over 60, has been recorded at the field hospital No.12. The man had been treated for pulmonary tuberculosis for two years.

Three days after the date of admission, the patient coughed up blood and was moved to the emergency department. Despite multiple resuscitation efforts by doctors, the patient did not survive because of his serious health conditions.

"None of us could hold back the tears as the patient died without being able to see his loved ones for the very last time,” Thành said.

“So we sat back and told each other not to let our spirits fall, as the fight against COVID-19 would be long.”

"We have been luckier than our colleagues in other places because we have seen many patients discharged. That is the greatest consolation to any medic during this tough time," he said.


Volunteer medics from Quảng Ninh Province offer support to a COVID-19 patient. — Photo courtesy of Quảng Ninh’s volunteer medical team

Phạm Văn Võ, a nurse from Quảng Ninh Obstetrics and Paediatrics Hospital, said he had previously participated in the fight against COVID-19 in northern Bắc Giang Province, but he had been overwhelmed with the number of patients at the HCM City hospital.

“The number of new infections in one day in the city was equal to the total cases recorded in Bắc Giang in the last outbreak,” he said.

On the first day he started working, the hospital only used three buildings, but then all six buildings were full of patients.

Võ said patients with severe conditions are often under more stress because they are hospitalised alone. “Some easily panic when hearing that a family member has died,” he said.

Medical staff had to reassure the patients and also let them make video calls with their families, and encourage them to stay positive while fighting the disease, he said.

The latest outbreak in the city has subsided, with the number of new daily infections continuing to decrease.

Only about 10 patients are now being treated in the field hospital No.12’s emergency resuscitation department.

Dr Bùi Hải Nam, head of the Quảng Ninh Province’s volunteer medical team, said more than 70 medics from Quảng Ninh came to support the city in the past three months.

They have helped take care of and treat around 4,500 COVID-19 patients at the field hospital No.12. Of the number, more than 3,300 patients have been discharged from the hospital.

The team has been divided into several smaller groups and will gradually withdraw from the city. Among these, 29 doctors and nurses have applied to continue supporting the city.

Thành and his colleagues are now undergoing isolation at the Quảng Ninh Obstetrics and Paediatrics Hospital before they return home and reunite with their families.

Since July, about 20,000 health workers across the country have been sent to assist the city in the pandemic fight.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyễn Trường Sơn has asked city authorities to plan for withdrawal of healthcare staff reinforcements from the city. They may call on them to help other COVID-19-hit localities in need.

HCM City to date has recorded over 410,000 COVID-19 infections, accounting for half of the country's total caseload. The number of daily new cases have been on the decline to around 1,500 in recent days since the peak of up to nearly 6,000 in August.

Nearly 16,000 fatalities have been logged, or three quarters of Việt Nam's total deaths. — VNS