The grim reality of working in a HIV ward in Hà Nội

December 31, 2022 - 11:55
For people with HIV that do not have family, caretakers like Thoa go the extra mile, from bathing to preparing meals.
A volunteer collects used needles at a venue where drug addicts inject drugs in the southern city of Vũng Tàu. VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Kim Thoa, a caretaker at the Infection Control Department, Hospital 09 at Tân Triều, Thanh Trì District of Hà Nội, tries to stay calm when she was scolded by an HIV-infected patient.

"At that time, I was very sad but I still speak gently to the patient because I understand that people living with HIV/AIDS often have physical pain, melancholy, and frustration with family and society.

"Because they think that they are abandoned, it is easy to get angry,” she said.

For people with HIV that do not have family, caretakers like Thoa go the extra mile, from bathing to preparing meals.

Despite helping hundreds of "family-less" patients in Hospital 09, Thoa is still haunted by the fate of a young girl named Trà My.

When she was hospitalised, Trà My's body was sore and smelly, but Thoa and other caretakers in the hospital bathed and fed her.

Suffering from end-stage AIDS, the unfortunate girl died in pain and loneliness.

"When My died, when they were burying her, I was extremely haunted by the smell, the body was rotting.”

To reduce the odor, I had to pour a whole bottle of oil into the mask but it didn't go away. Caretakers had to take turns because they couldn't stand the bad smell, Thoa recalled.

It happened ten years ago, but Thoa is still haunted by it.

She knows that to do this job, she must love her work and more importantly, love patients like her own family members.

“When a HIV patient dies, we clean his/her body and face. Everything comes from the mind," she confided.

For the patient's clothes, Thoa and her colleagues soak and disinfect them, then put them in the washing machine using hot water to kill bacteria.

Blood-stained clothes and pants must be placed in a medical waste bin for destruction in accordance with medical hygiene procedures.

Patients’ rooms and toilets must be cleaned and disinfected daily to ensure the safety of medical staff, doctors and patients' family members.

Security guards working at Hospital 09 also faced with dangers from HIV patients.

At the end of 2013, a HIV patient born in 1971 with a brain-related problem could not control his behaviour. He took a knife and slashed another patient, causing panic.

Security guard Lê Văn Quế recalled: “When I was informed and ran to the room, the patient said ‘I didn't do anything’ but still holding the knife."

Quế talked to the patient to distract his thoughts and then rush in to take the knife.

“But he still swung the knife very quickly towards me, stabbing me in the body.”

In the past, security guards have been threaten by drug addicts holding needles with blood, but in recent years this has stopped.

The security guards here have worked together for a long time. They are coordinated in handling many different situations; many HIV patients are drug addicts and can be reckless.

Currently, the hospital has about 180 staff, including doctors, medical workers, and administrative officers. — VNS