Vietnamese doctors help Laos fight COVID-19

June 28, 2021 - 08:52
In early May, 18 leading Vietnamese medical experts were sent to Laos’ healthcare facilities to aid the neighbouring country in the fight against COVID-19.


The 31-year-old pregnant woman has recovered from COVID-19 after receiving assistance from Vietnamese doctors. — Photo Vietnamplus

HÀ NỘI — In early May, 18 leading Vietnamese medical experts were sent to Laos’ healthcare facilities to aid the neighbouring country in the fight against COVID-19.

The team has completed its mission and has returned to Việt Nam after treating many COVID-19 patients in Laos.

In April, Laos witnessed the resurgence of COVID-19 community cases after a year without reporting any new cases. The infections started from bars, karaoke venues, massage parlours and entertainment areas and spread to markets, offices and public areas.

It was 8.30pm on May 13. When Vietnamese medical experts working in Laos were having dinner, they received a call reporting an emergency case of a 21-weeks pregnant woman who had suffered severe respiratory failure and tested positive for the coronavirus.

Immediately a team of five Vietnamese doctors and experts headed to Pholthong Hospital in Champasak Province.

Dr Nguyễn Tú Anh from the Intensive Care Unit of Việt Nam’s Bạch Mai Hospital said: "The young pregnant woman was gradually getting weak. Her eyes were full of fear and anxiety.”

The 31-year-old woman was very weak as she was suffering from respiratory failure with shortness of breath and decreasing level of oxygen concentration in the blood. The level was acceptable for the mother, but was affecting the fetus, she said.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Vietnamese intensive care and emergency doctors consulted with Lao doctors to come up a plan to save the fetus.

Dr Anh said" “If the case had been in Việt Nam, everything would have been easier. But the patient was sent to a district-level hospital without a specialised intensive care and emergency department.”

The Pholthong Hospital is in charge of receiving asymptomatic COVID-19 patients so it lacks medical equipment and human resources for emergency and intensive care. Techniques like dialysis and mechanical ventilation cannot be performed, she said.

Without assisting machines, the doctors had to use a non-invasive ventilator from a military hospital located 40km from Pholthong Hospital, she said.

Luckily, the pregnant woman responded well to the ventilator.

Also on May 13, the Pholthong Hospital received a male COVID-19 patient with lung damage. After an examination and an X-ray screening, the patient was given nasal oxygen.

Days after that, Lao and Vietnamese experts exchanged screenshots of parameters on oxygen ventilators and X-ray results with each other to consult on treatment for the patients.

Three to four days after the emergency, the pregnant woman did not need the ventilator.

Both patients recovered from critical condition thanks to the help of Vietnamese doctors.

Vietnamese and Lao doctors before a medical consultation at Pholthong Hospital. — Photo Vietnamplus

“It was an indescribable feeling when we could save both mother and child. When the team finished our trip in Laos, during a 21-day quarantine period in Hà Tĩnh, we received news that the pregnant woman was in a good state of health and the male patient was discharged from the hospital,” Dr Vũ Tưởng Lân from the Emergency Centre of Bạch Mai Hospital, a member of the working group to Laos, said.

But the Vietnamese doctors weren't able to save every patient.

Dr Lân said: “That were two severe cases we received when we were packing our luggage to leave Laos.”

One patient showed signs of limb necrosis, a complication of COVID-19, so the doctors and nurses unloaded their luggage and put on protective suits to hold a medical consultation, he said.

“Unfortunately, this patient's case was difficult to intervene in because the hospital's equipment and human resources were limited. We couldn't deploy advanced techniques and we felt very sorry for that,” he said.

Dr Vương Ánh Dương, deputy director of the Department of Medical Examination and Treatment under the Ministry of Health, led the delegation of Vietnamese medical experts in Laos. He said the team members were experienced doctors and nurses of leading hospitals who worked in Việt Nam’s COVID hotspots.

“Our team of 18 people worked in different fields and different units and even didn't know each other before. We only got to know each other during a trip of hundreds of kilometres to Laos,” he said.

The team visited and inspected COVID prevention and control at two central hospitals, two military hospitals, three provincial general and specialised hospitals, testing centres, quarantine sites, villages with high infection risks and other district-level and field hospitals in Laos.

Vietnamese experts joined consultations and treated some severe local cases. They also organised training seminars to share treatment and infection control experience.

“We tried to propose recommendations relevant to Laos’ existing conditions. To deal with dangerous new variants such as those from the UK and India, the Vietnamese team proposed to their Lao colleagues the appropriate period between testing times to avoid a situation in which patients test positive after 14 days of quarantine,” Dr Dương said.

They also proposed Laos prepare a scenario to respond to different levels of the pandemic in accordance with political, economic, social conditions and health response capacity in each region, and set up a team of experts to assist the National Steering Committee on COVID to collect accurate, complete and reliable multi-disciplinary information for decision-making purpose and community interventions. — VNS