A COVID-19 patient gave birth to at the Hòa Vang field hospital during her two-week treatment. The mother and little girl have been released from the hospital. — VNS Photos Lê Lâm
By Hoài Nam
ĐÀ NẴNG — It’s been around one month since the central city of Đà Nẵng was directly hit by the COVID-19 outbreak with nearly 400 people infected with SARS-CoV-2 and 28,000 close contact cases quarantined at health centres or in their homes.
Five hospitals, seven residential areas and apartments and five markets with thousands of people had to lock down for two weeks after positive cases were found in the community and hospitals.
The city’s healthcare system has suffered since the general hospital and C Hospital - key heath service centres in the region with more than 5,000 doctors, nurses, staff and patients - were locked down. No out-patient services were allowed at the two hospitals, which would usually treat thousands of arrivals from around the region.
The outbreak attacked the Endorinology-Nephrology ward where patients were being treated for kidney failure, diabetes, hypertension and cancer – some of the most critical conditions during the COVID-19 period.
In the first two weeks of social distancing, the city was shocked by 37 to 45 positive cases each day, of which many infections were reported in the community and 14 doctors were exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
However, the situation was brought under control in the third week of social distancing when mass testing and medical facility mobilisation were accelerated by the city and the Ministry of Health.
The city’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and seven other hospitals and health centres were rapidly upgraded with medical facilities and manpower capable of testing 15,000 cases – 10 times more than usual – each day, while more than 300 doctors from the ministry, Hà Nội, HCM City, Thừa Thiên-Huế, Bình Định, Nghệ An, Hải Phòng and Phú Thọ were called up to support Đà Nẵng in dealing with COVID-19.
A medical worker takes a sample from a foreigner during a mass test in Đà Nẵng. More than 242,000 tests have been conducted, of which 99 per cent have been negative.
Two level-three hospitals – one in rural Hòa Vang district and the Lung Hospital – were also converted to accommodate COVID-19 patients from three locked-down hospitals, and a 300-bed field hospital was built in seven days in preparation for the peak of the outbreak in the city.
Thừa Thiên-Huế Hospital also treated 13 of the most serious cases from Đà Nẵng and Quảng Nam to help share the burden.
Senior doctors from the Hà Nội-based Bạch Mai Hospital and HCM City’s Chợ Rẫy Hospital who had successfully treated the most critical COVID-19 patients were assigned to help Đà Nẵng battle the outbreak.
According to the city’s CDC, 241,000 tests were conducted between July 25 and September 2, and 99 per cent came back negative for SARS-CoV-2.
As of September 3, 249 out of 389 COVID-19 patients in Đà Nẵng had been released from hospital – equivalent to 64 per cent.
A total of 2,200 medical response teams were established to track down close COVID-19 patient contact in the community as well as provide medical examinations and warnings about the virus.
Four hospitals resumed normal operations after two weeks, and the general hospital re-opened in late of August after being locked down for one month.
For five days in a row (between August 30 and September 3), Đà Nẵng did not report any positive community or hospital cases, and senior doctors and nurses from Hà Nội, HCM City, Huế and Hải Phòng had returned to their normal jobs as the situation eased.
“Group tests, strict isolation, sanitary warnings and face masks as well as keeping a safe distance in public places will be the most effective solutions to shoot down coronavirus,” said director of the city’s health department, Ngô Thị Kim Yến.
“The city will ramp up these measures if needed. We will win if we are strong.”
Mass testing for 224,000 remaining families in the city started on September 4 to eliminate and further cases in the community. In total, 51,000 families – or 18 per cent of city's population – have already tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.
Over 5,000 foreigners living and working in the city had tested negative as of late August.
Doctor Phạm Ngọc Hàm, who treated many COVID-19 patients in the first outbreak in March, said coronavirus remained dangerous, but it would be defeated with careful preparation.
Local residents celebrate after lockdown in a residential area was lifted after two weeks.
He said COVID-19 patients were given the best treatment for serious ailments including kidney failure, diabetes, hypertension and cancer – the biggest causes of deaths reported in the city.
He said the seriously sick and elderly were most at risk because their immune systems were weak.
“From our experience, 24-hour surveillance, good nutrition and antibiotics can help treat these. Strict isolation and maintaining a safe distance among patients and their relatives as well as protective clothing for doctors and nurses are needed,” he said.
“Warnings about personal hygiene must be given constantly at home, in the workplace and at public sites.”
At least US$2 million worth of medical equipment, food, material and logistics was raised from donors nationwide to help Đà Nẵng in the fight. More than 5,000 food rations were provided free each day from donors to support doctors, nurses, check-point officials and poor people.
A fund worth VNĐ127 billion ($5.5 million) was allocated to support 120,000 poor and unemployed people, according to the city’s labour, invalid and social affairs department.
The city will ease social distancing rules after mass testing is completed this week.
However, at the moment, flights, public buses, railways, restaurants, coffee shops and trading services remain closed, and a COVID-19 co-existence scenario with protective measures will be applied to everyone in the coming days.
While the city waits for a vaccine to be made available, a healthy lifestyle has been deemed a positive option for people at the moment and in the future. — VNS