Silent heroes in the fight against coronavirus

By Thuy An, Le Chi   February 26, 2020 | 05:08 pm GMT+7
Silent heroes in the fight against coronavirus
Mai (L) helps a colleague wear her protective garb. Photo by VnExpress/Thuy An.

Nurse Pham Thi Hong Mai receives a call on the hotline about a suspected case of nCoV infection and prepares to see the person.

The woman who comes has high fever, shortness of breath and a constant cough. Mai measures her temperature and calms the anxious woman down. 

"Most patients with coronavirus symptoms are anxious, not only due to the disease itself but also fearing alienation and discrimination from others," said Mai, head nurse in the department of tropical diseases, Hanoi's Ha Dong General Hospital. As someone closest to them, I feel responsible for helping them feel secure during the treatment."

The quarantine for suspected Covid-19 patients at her department is deserted except for two receptionists in blue protective clothing.

Right after deciding to take up the job in the quarantine, Mai gave her husband clear instructions to take care of their children saying she would also be isolated if she got infected. 

She has had to stay away from her loved ones since then she knows the disease is dangerous and caregivers like her face a higher risk of infection. 

Vuong Truong Trong, deputy head of the department, says when there is an epidemic, early isolation translates into effective treatment. Every health worker has to take precautions such as wearing protective gear including a mask, and any person with a sign of mild fever is immediately sent for a check, he says. 

"The hospital has not detected any cases so far, but the team of doctors and nurses is always ready to respond promptly and effectively."

Health workers at Hanoi's Dong Da General Hospital are also on constant vigil and away from their families. 

Dr Ngoc Anh of the infectious diseases department volunteered for epidemic prevention duty despite suffering from kidney stones. Another doctor on duty, who had appendectomy surgery, promised his colleagues he would be back to work within a week. 

Dr Nguyen Thai Minh, head of the infectious diseases department, says the hospital has increased the number of staff in his department. nCoV patients will be treated by infection specialists while the staff will take care of them after they stabilize. 

A problem for the hospital is coping with rumours, Minh says. "Any time an ambulance comes into the hospital with staff wearing protective clothing, people exclaim that there must be positive cases, even when there are none."

Cooperation from possible patients is another problem for health workers. Patients often lie about their epidemiological history, some are afraid to go to hospital, fear stigma or do not trust doctors' judgement. 

Many potential patients do not know how to isolate themselves and thus put others at risk. 

Some hospitals have strengthened quarantine and disease control. At Hanoi Post Hospital, Dr Tran Hung Manh, deputy director and head of the disease prevention and control committee, says the hospital is on top of the disease situation. 

Healthcare workers who have close contact with patients must strictly abide by hygiene, protection and safety regulations for themselves and the community to prevent the spread of infection.

The Hanoi Oncology Hospital scrupulously follows sterilization and sanitation protocols. All hospital officials, workers and employees must take personal protection measures, and there are hand sanitizers in all clinics.

Patients and their guests are screened and have their temperature taken to detect any sign of possible nCoV infection.

Nurse Dang Van Huy of the Ha Dong General Hospital checks people with symptoms like cough and fever. Photo by VnExpress/Thuy An.

Nurse Dang Van Huy of the Ha Dong General Hospital checks people with symptoms like cough and fever. Photo by VnExpress/Thuy An.

According to doctors, the pressure on those testing patients with symptoms is similar to that on the frontlines, especially with the number of infected health workers increasing around the world. The fight against the coronavirus needs efforts not only by the medical community but the entire society, they said.

Taking off her protective clothing, Mai puts on a white shirt and goes back to her room. Taking a deep breath, she says any epidemic can be contained, whether SARS, MERS, H5N1, or Covid-19.

"When the epidemic is over, I will go home, cook a delicious meal for my children and tell them about my silent but important work," she says, her eyes filled with optimism. 

 
 
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