Medics wistful about esprit de corps at HCMC Covid hospital

By Thuy An   October 10, 2021 | 12:49 am PT
On their last day at a HCMC Covid field hospital, medics from Quang Ninh savored the unforgettable experience of working shoulder to shoulder in fighting the pandemic.

"Despite witnessing many losses and grief, the three-month period in Ho Chi Minh City has been a valuable experience for us," Dr Nguyen Ngoc Thanh said as he and colleagues were packing up to withdraw from the southern metropolis.

Thanh said this was his first time joining the Covid-19 fight and also the most special business trip after 10 years in the profession.

After arriving in HCMC on July 13, members of Quang Ninh's medical team divided into shifts to assist the 12th Covid field hospital in District 2.

Doctors and nurses from Quang Ninh Province take a picture together on their last day at 12th Covid field hospital in District 2. Photo courtesy of the hosital

Doctors and nurses from Quang Ninh Province take a picture together on their last day at the 12th Covid field hospital in District 2. Photo courtesy of the hospital

According to protocol, hospitalized patients are screened and transferred to the clinical ward. In severe cases, the patient would be taken to the emergency room, put on ventilation support and be actively monitored. Every day, doctors would visit the patient's room to check up on them, while nurses measure their heart rates, temperature, bloody oxygen levels, and administer medicine.

At first, everyone's work was difficult due to the lack of equipment. Tensions continued to rise as the number of hospitalized patients skyrocketed. During peak days, the emergency department had to treat up to 30 severe cases.

"I was under lots of pressure since everything was new to me. I am not a doctor specializing in emergency resuscitation, so I had to work and learn along the way," Thanh said.

He remembers the most severe case was a 67-year-old patient with a health background of hypertension and diabetes. At the time, the patient showed severe Covid symptoms and was transferred to the emergency department. Assessing the case with the risk of severe progression, he assigned the patient to be put on high flow nasal cannula (HFNC).

The patient fortunately survived with early ventilation intervention. After 10 days of treatment and monitoring, the patient's health status gradually improved as fever subsided and began to be weaned off HFNC before switching to an oxygen mask and later being discharged.

Normally, patients are treated for seven to 10 days in the emergency department before they can be discharged. Only about 20 percent of infections would turn critical and require more treatment.

Up to now, the 12th Covid field hospital has only recorded the death of a 60-year-old male patient who had been treated for pulmonary tuberculosis for two years.

After three days of admission, the patient coughed out blood and had to be immediately transferred to the emergency department. However, due to the severity of his condition, the patient did not survive.

"No one could hold back their tears because the patient died alone," Thanh said.

The whole group encouraged each other not to grow depressed.

"We consider ourselves luckier than colleagues in other places sincee we have seen many patients discharged. That is the greatest consolation of any medic," he added.

Pham Van Vo and colleague give ventilation support to a Covid patient. Photo courtesy of Vo

Pham Van Vo and a colleague give ventilation support to a Covid patient. Photo courtesy of Vo

Pham Van Vo, a nurse from Quang Ninh Obstetrics and Children's Hospital, said that besides support treatment, nurses like him also help patients with eating, hygiene and mental reassurance.

Although he had participated in the Covid fight in northern Bac Giang Province in the past, Vo said this trip was more "overwhelming" as the number of infections HCMC recorded in a day was equal to the total cases in Bac Giang in the last wave.

According to him, medical staff had to reassure severe Covid patients when they suddenly became separated from their family whom they were admitted to hospital with. Some Covid patients were very panicked when hearing the news that a family member has died. So medical staff let patients video chat with their relatives to exchange love and encouragement.

Currently, the epidemic situation in HCMC has subsided, with the number of infections per day having dropped significantly.

According to previous a report, many current field hospitals are only operating at half of their maximum capacity, with fewer patients needing oxygen support.

The southern metropolis, epicenter of the fourth wave, has recorded 409,000 local Covid-19 cases so far. Over 15,545 people in the city have died.

The 12th Covid field hospital now only has 10 patients left in its emergency resuscitation department.

Dr Bui Hai Nam, head of the Quang Ninh Province's medical team delegation, said more than 70 Quang Ninh doctors came to aid HCMC in the past three months. They have helped take care of and treat nearly 4,500 Covid-19 patients. Of which, over 3,300 have been discharged.

The medical team has divided into several waves to gradually withdraw from the city. Meanwhile, 29 doctors and nurses have applied to stay in HCMC to continue participating in the fight against the epidemic.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son on Wednesday requested city authorities to plan for health worker reinforcements to withdraw from HCMC to ensure their good health and have them assist other localities.

Since July, around 20,000 health workers from all over the country have been dispatched to HCMC to aid in the coronavirus fight, he added.

Thanh and colleagues are undergoing isolation at Quang Ninh Obstetrics and Children's Hospital before they are allowed to go home and reunite with their families.

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