A doctor gets homesick in Vietnam's coronavirus hub

By Chi Le   February 20, 2020 | 05:30 am PT
Doctor Tran Quang Vinh has worked non-stop for three weeks to help patients infected with novel coronavirus. He longs for his family.

"Relax, you're going to get over it," doctor Vinh told one of his Covid-19 patients, smiling, reassuring the obviously scared woman.

Wearing a head-to-toe protective gown, Vinh placed a stethoscope on the patient’s chest and said: "You do not have any chronic disease and you have a good immune system, you will get well and can return home soon."

He can't say the same thing for himself, though. He has not seen his wife and children for three weeks now.

The doctor has been working almost nonstop in Vinh Phuc Province's Binh Xuyen District. The province, 40 km from Hanoi, is home to 11 of 16 Covid-19 patients recorded so far in Vietnam.

The 11 includes six of eight Vietnamese workers of Japanese-invested Nihon Plast Company Limited who'd returned to Vietnam from China's Wuhan City on January 17, after being sent there to train for more than two months.

Vinh, 46, is the dean of the infectious disease department at Phuc Yen General Hospital in Vinh Phuc’s Phuc Yen Town. He joined a team to fight the novel coronavirus epidemic on January 31 and has been quarantined from his family since then.

On February 7, he was sent to the Quang Ha General Hospital in Binh Xuyen after the first five patients were detected in Vinh Phuc. Since then, he has barely had any respite from work, especially after more patients were detected in the province.

Vinh and a group of 24 doctors and nurses work round the clock, keeping a close eye on the five patients in Binh Xuyen and ensure that strict quarantine is maintained.

Doctor Tran Quang Vinh speaks outside Quang Ha General Hospital in Binh Xuyen District of Vinh Phuc Province, February 18, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le

Doctor Tran Quang Vinh speaks outside Quang Ha General Hospital in Binh Xuyen District, Vinh Phuc Province, February 18, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le.

Moreover, the doctors’ job is more than providing medical treatment.

They have dealt constantly with the anxieties and fears of the patients because the ongoing epidemic is caused by a new type of coronavirus that has been seen for the first time, and the death toll in China has kept rising.

"Patients are under a lot of stress because they don’t know where the virus came from, why and how they get infected and whether it could kill them," Vinh said.

Vinh is not scared for himself, though.

"As a doctor, I understand the real situation of the epidemic and do not feel worried or hesitate to deal directly with the patients."

Vinh and his team are definitely breathing easier for the last few days after all five patients have recovered.

Homesick and worse

However, the calm and confident doctor is missing his family badly.

"Sometimes I feel really homesick."

"I’ve been away from my family for 18 straight days," he said last Monday.

But even upsetting than homesickness is the fact that his wife and children have been discriminated against by several people around them, despite their being in Hanoi, completely separated from him and have never been to Vinh Phuc since the epidemic struck Vietnam.

"My family has been away from the outbreak and everybody is totally fine," he said.

His wife works as a teacher in Hanoi. Together, they have two houses, one in Hanoi and the other in Vinh Phuc. He works in Vinh Phuc and has been traveling back and forth between the two houses. His children live and study in Hanoi.

"People have been afraid of my wife after learning that I am treating patients with Covid-19 infections in Vinh Phuc. Actually my family did not want me to work with the outbreak, but as a doctor, I can’t turn my back on patients."

By Thursday afternoon, four coronavirus patients at the Quang Ha General Hospital had been discharged.

"We are confident about continuing our job and treating the remaining patient at the hospital," Vinh said.

That is also the only Covid-19-positive case in Vietnam right now, who is the 50-year-old father of an infected worker returning from Wuhan. Nationwide, only two of the 16 patients are still hospitalized - the other being a Vietnamese American man in Ho Chi Minh City who has been declared free of the virus and is set to leave hospital on Friday.

No new infection has been detected from late January until the 16th positive case seven days ago.

The World Health Organization said in a statement last Saturday that Vietnam has responded well to the new coronavirus epidemic from the very outset, preventing its spread.

As of Thursday afternoon, the global death toll had climbed to 2,130, and confirmed infections reached 75,735, of whom 16,507 have recovered.

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