Hanoi ‘cancer village’ radiates distress after hospital lockdown

By Pham Chieu   May 9, 2021 | 12:31 am PT
Hanoi ‘cancer village’ radiates distress after hospital lockdown
Trinh Dinh Tieu in his rented room in the ‘cancer village’ in Tan Trieu Commune, Hanoi's Thanh Tri District, May 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu.
With Hanoi’s leading cancer hospital locked down as a Covid-19 hotspot, some patients requiring radiation therapy are living in anxiety, hoping their treatment can resume soon.

Opposite the K hospital in Tan Trieu Commune in Thanh Tri District is a small alley that’s called a ‘cancer village.’ Hundreds of rooms are rented out here for patients from neighboring localities who are undergoing cancer treatment.

When the hospital was placed under a lockdown Friday after dozens of people tested positive for the coronavirus, the alley suddenly fell silent. Shops closed and most of the rooms became empty as many patients returned to their hometown, uncertain when their treatment can resume.

Some people, however, have stayed behind, clinging to faint hopes of getting treatment somehow, because their lives are in danger.

"The alley has never been empty like this. Around 90 percent of the people staying have returned home after the hospital was locked down", said Nguyen Thi Nguyet, a local resident.

Hai Phong native Nguyen Van Dat, 70, and his wife share one side of a rented room that has just enough space for two single beds. A small fan placed at the head of the bed runs at full capacity as the days get hot and sunny in Hanoi.

Dat had gone to the hospital late March for treating facial tumors. Before the four-day-long holiday for the National Reunification Day and May Day starting April 30, he had undergone the first round of radiation therapy. He was waiting for the second when the hospital was placed under a lockdown.

He understands that the Covid-19 outbreak was unexpected, but Dat is stressed out because his life is dependent on the radiation therapy.

Inside the alley where cancer patients are renting rooms to serve for their treatement. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu.

‘Cancer village in Tan Trieu Commune in Hanoi's Thanh Tri District. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu.

"Cancer progresses very quickly. If the radiation is delayed, it brings death closer," Dat said.

In the morning, when the hospital was locked down, Dat called the doctor, but did not get an exact answer about when the next round of radiation could begin.

Instead of going home, the couple decided to stay in Hanoi, hoping to get lucky.

"I’m very tired. But now I have no choice, so I have decided to stay and wait for an opportunity to continue receiving radiotherapy."

Near Dat's room, Trinh Dinh Tieu, 71, also from the northern city of Hai Phong, has stayed back for the same reason.

Tieu's room can only accommodate one bed, but he has to pay VND3 million ($129.3) per month for it. However, given its close proximity to the hospital, Tieu has no other choice.

Before the outbreak, Tieu's son stayed with him for a few days before returning to their hometown.

Tieu has received five doses of radiation therapy, and is preparing for the sixth.

Now, unable to visit the hospital, Tieu has nothing to do but listen to the radio and answer phone calls from relatives. He tried to reassure everyone.

"I don't know when the hospital will resume operations and my illness is getting worse. I am very worried that I cannot get an exact schedule for next radiotherapy dose," Tieu said.

Tran Thi Ha, 60, cannot return to her home in Phu Xuyen District, around 50 kilometers from the hospital. Ha's husband has stomach cancer and has to wait for two weeks to get a radiation session. But now, nothing is predictable.

"A few months ago, my husband had a stomach ache but thought it was normal. However, when it got worse, he visited the hospital and was diagnosed with stomach cancer," Ha said. It was just one day before the K Hospital was locked down that her husband was admitted for radiation treatment.

"Now, if I go back to my hometown, I would be sent to a centralized quarantine facility for 21 days, which worsens everything," said Ha, who decided to stay in the alley to take care of her husband.

In the latest Covid-19 outbreak sweeping the nation from April 27, Hanoi is the leading hotspot with 100 community transmissions, linked mainly to outbreaks at two major hospitals, including the Tan Trieu facility, which specializes in treating tumors.

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