Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — Dr Ngô Thị Ánh Đông is so devoted to her job and patients, and so well-loved, that when she’s absent from the health clinic on any given day, people tend to panic.
Where is she? the patients ask. They even call her up to ask if anything is wrong.
“It shows that I’m lodged deep in their heart,” the 62-year-old said.
Since 2005, Dr Đông has been working at an outpatient clinic for HIV patients at Bình Thạnh District’s Preventive Health Centre.
The clinic provides counselling, antiretroviral (ARV) therapy and community-based support to 1,800 people with HIV.
“I’ll work until my health will no longer allow me,” Đông said. “I don’t dare quit because I’m not sure if my replacement would be as devoted as I am."
In 1999, Đông began working as an obstetrician at the Preventive Health Centre in District 4, and was hired in 2001 as the only doctor at the centre’s outpatient clinic.
Since that time, she has mostly treated people with HIV.
“I’ve wanted to quit many times, but I haven’t," Đông said. "When we show patients love, they treat us kindly. I’ve never been badly treated by patients.".
She recalled that, one day after a heavy rain, Xóm Chiếu Street where the clinic is located was flooded. She should have stayed at home, but after several patients phoned her, Đông left to visit them.
“If I hadn’t gone, what would have happened to them? At that time, they needed me,” Đông said, adding that patients also need “warm arms and love” from health officials and the community.
Many people in the community, however, are not sympathetic to HIV patients and, unfortunately, display discriminatory attitudes toward them, she said.
Đông is determined to treat the patients with respect so they can become confident and integrate into society.
One patient, Nguyễn Hùng Minh (not his real name), said that when he learned of his HIV status he was “shocked and depressed”.
But Dr Đông showed him respect and helped him get a job as a peer educator for HIV patients.
Minh in his job speaks with people and encourages them to take a HIV test, and if the results are positive, asks them to agree to receive ARV therapy.
“If I hadn’t met Dr Đông, I wouldn’t be healthy and have such a stable job,” he said.
The wife of a man with HIV spoke about Đông’s dedication. "She called my husband when she realised that he was not taking his medicine on schedule."
Nguyễn Thị Hường, the clinic’s new doctor, said: “Đông shows enthusiasm when she works with me. She teaches me everything, including how to communicate with people with HIV and the best medical treatments.”
Đông knows the living circumstance of each person with HIV treated at the clinic, Hường said, adding that Đông also helps them try to overcome their personal difficulties.
Late last month, Đông was one of 113 people honoured by the HCM City People’s Committee and Việt Nam Fatherland Front for their contributions to a civilised society and to the promotion of a good quality of life.
Nguyễn Thành Phong, chairman of the city People’s Committee, who spoke at the ceremony, said: “Their silent and noble contributions need to be honoured because they are done from their heart. These people are the seeds that cultivate goodness in life.”
Việt Nam’s Vice President Đặng Thị Ngọc Thịnh, speaking at the ceremony, called the recipients “commendable models who’ve advocated humanitarian activities which have contributed to a kinder and better society.” — VNS