Hanoi locks down main hospital after eight Covid-19 infections

By Le Nga, Chi Le   March 27, 2020 | 11:52 pm PT
Hanoi locks down main hospital after eight Covid-19 infections
Bach Mai Hospital is isolated starting Saturday morning after more infections linked to it were confirmed. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Hanoi’s Bach Mai hospital, one of Vietnam’s largest, has suspended admitting new patients and is isolated as of Saturday.

The shutdown happened after two new infection cases associated with the hospital were confirmed Saturday morning. "Patient 168" and "Patient 169" are two female employees of the Truong Sinh Company which provides food and hot water to the Bach Mai Hospital. They tested positive for the novel coronavirus after nearly 5,000 staff and patients at Bach Mai were ordered to take the test.

The two have been quarantined and are under treatment.

The Bach Mai Hospital was immediately shut down and three of its units isolated - the Heart Institute, the Department of Neurology and its Center for Tropical Diseases, along with personnel working there.

The hospital has since stopped accepting patients and deployed a no-trespassing measure. Nearly 1,000 patients currently being treated at Bach Mai will not be discharged until they test negative for the virus.

"No entering or leaving the Bach Mai Hospital at this point," a notice at the hospital reads.

Since Friday afternoon, the surroundings and interiors of the hospital were deserted. The parking lot, usually filled to capacity, was only a third full.

By Saturday morning, the entire hospital was isolated. The police have erected checkpoints at the main gate to stop people from coming in for checkups and advise them to go to a different facility. A group consisting of a doctor and two medical staff in blue protective clothing man each of these checkpoints.

Essential goods delivery trucks are allowed to enter and unload goods in quick time. Doctors and medical staff have been informed they can’t leave once they enter. Doctors still arriving for their shifts can enter, but not leave.

The Health Ministry has said transmission within groups of hospital visitors and the hospital staff getting infected by outsiders is a possibility. It has asked families and those who had visited the Bach Mai Hospital in the past two weeks to contact and submit health declarations at the nearest medical facility.

All hospital staff have taken the latest developments in their stride, despite the escalating pressure and negative optics, said Dr Duong Duc Hung, Deputy Director of the hospital.

"In case where we have to treat Covid-19 positive cases, there are 600-700 staff who have volunteered to participate. They are aware of their responsibility to the people, community and to their jobs.

"They have also been trained on how infections work and taught prevention techniques," Hung said.

In the worst case scenario, if the health of a staff worsens and proves fatal after contracting the virus, the day they come into work could be the last they would see their family, he noted.

"But none of the hospital staff has asked for unpaid leave. This is the morale of all health workers, not just of Bach Mai Hospital. I believe we will fight the disease successfully," Hung said.

As of Saturday, eight people who tested positive once for the novel coronavirus were linked to the hospital. Two nurses of the hospital became the first members of the medical fraternity in the country to test positive for the virus last week. They contracted the virus outside the hospital first.

"Patient 133", a 66-year-old woman from Lai Chau Province in northern Vietnam was confirmed positive for the coronavirus after staying for three weeks at the hospital to get a heart condition treated.

She was treated in the same room as "Patient 161," an 88-year-old Vietnamese woman who lives in Van Lam District, northern Hung Yen Province, from March 17-22.

Two family members of Patient 161 who visited her, "Patient 162" and "Patient 163" also contracted the virus.

The latest cases related to the hospital are "Patient 168" and "Patient 169". They either contracted the virus from caretakers whose family members are being treated at the hospital or from an outside source.

The ministry has predicted that there might be cases found in other hospitals in Hanoi and HCMC and asked staff to be vigilant and conduct testing like the Bach Mai Hospital has.

Vietnam has recorded 169 infections so far, with six added Saturday morning. Of these, 21 have been discharged from hospitals.

The Covid-19 pandemic has so far killed more than 27,300 people in 199 countries and territories.

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