Viet Nam News
QUẢNG TRỊ - Twenty years have passed since the young doctor, Trịnh Đức Thiện, left Huế City for the remote and mountainous A Vao Commune in central Quảng Trị Province’s Đăk Rông District to work after graduating from medical college.
After travelling hundreds of kilometers, Thiện found a small and degraded clinic that was surrounded by forest. Wild animals were wandering around to find food. Some stilt houses of Pa Kô ethnic minority were nearby. However, the young man was not discouraged.
Thiện was born and grew up in A Lưới District, central Thừa Thiên-Huế Province which borders A Bung commune of Đắk Rông District of Quảng Trị Province – home to many ethnic minority groups, including Pa Kô. So he understood some backward customs of the groups, including a custom of the Pa Kô that requires a pregnant woman to leave home and give birth by herself in a makeshift tent without any help. Pa Kô people believe that a woman who gives birth at home will bring bad luck to the community.
He said local residents would always live in poor conditions while these customs exist. So he wanted to make a change and decided to go to A Vao commune.
“I still clearly remember the first day I arrived in A Vao. After travelling a long distance by motorbike from Hồng Thủy commune to Tà Rut commune before arriving in A Vao, I was told by local people that it was impossible to get A Vao by motorbike. So I had to walk, climb over slopes and cross springs at around 8km to A Vao,” he told Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper.
“On my arrival at A Vao clinic, seeing it only a small thatched cottage built by thin slides of wood made me disappointed. However, that feeling quickly left and I told myself to strive to overcome all difficulties,” he recalled.
After a few days, Thiện started to make his own action plan to provide health care and treatment for local residents, such as providing immunisation to prevent seasonal transmitted diseases.
A plan was also nurtured by Thiện to wipe out the backward customs of local residents to encourage them to go clinics for health check-ups.
What Thiện wanted to do most though was end the custom that requires a woman to give birth by herself alone at a makeshift tent along a spring, not at home or in a clinic.
According to Thiện, the rate of maternal mortality was high because of the custom which caused many risks for the women when giving birth. Many died of puerperal eclampsia (post natal coma and convulsions) and infections and some babies died due to tetanus.
However, “It is not easy to immediately wipe out the custom as I wished,” Thiện said. “In the first years working at the clinic, whenever a woman was going to give birth, I immediately went to her house to disseminate information and encourage other family members to allow her to give birth at the clinic but they all ignored me. They said that was a long-lasting custom and could not be broken,” Thiện said.
“I tried harder and harder to encourage local people and it took quite a long time for them to understand,” he said.
“I travelled to different villages in the commune to talk with heads of the village or patriarchs as they are the key factors in changing local residents’ mindset about the customs,” he added.
“My efforts eventually paid off. Many villages in the commune have got rid of the customs. Women are now allowed to give birth at the clinic,” he said.
Vice chairwoman of Đắk Rông District Hồ Thị Kim Cúc told the newspaper that doctor Thiện and his colleagues at the clinic had done many good things, particularly mobilising nearly 100 per cent of local residents of Pa Kô ethnic minority group to go the clinic to have health check-ups and treatment instead of using backward customs such as making ceremonial offerings to treat diseases.
“They also travel to remote villages to provide health care for ethnic minority people,” she said.
After about twenty years living and working here, Thiện cannot remember exactly how many patients he has treated and saved.
A special love for the land and people here and the heart of a good doctor has helped Thiện overcome all difficulties. This place seems like his second home. - VNS