HCMC mulls field hospital cuts with fall in critical patients

By Le Phuong   September 22, 2021 | 08:15 pm PT
HCMC mulls field hospital cuts with fall in critical patients
Medics and military personnel join hands to move canvas beds up to rooms for treating Covid-19 patients at a field hospital in Thu Duc City, HCMC, July 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa
With fewer patients needing to be hospitalized, HCMC health authorities are considering closing several Covid-19 field hospitals.

Over the past week, the emergency room of Field Hospital No.12 has received 25-30 cases a day compared to the peak of 73 in late August.

The field hospital in Thu Duc City is treating 1,900 Covid-19 patients, a drop of 400 on Sept. 14.

"When HCMC launched another mass test campaign on August 23 and found more Covid-19 cases in the community, many people have worried if it would cause overload for the healthcare sector but in reality, the number of patients in need of emergency aid has decreased," said doctor Pham Dang Trong Tuong, director of the hospital.

Nguyen Thanh Dung, director of the Field Hospital No.2 in District 12, said that as of Tuesday, among 1,800 admissions, only six were in the intensive care unit (ICU) and 40 reliant on oxygen support in the emergency room compared to the peaks of 25 in ICU and 170 in need of oxygen support.

The two field hospitals are among nearly 30 that HCMC has established since June in university dormitories, schools and apartment buildings as the city suffered its worst Covid-19 outbreak ever and became the epicenter of Vietnam’s fourth Covid-19 wave.

At first, the hospitals ran at full capacity and some were even overloaded.

There were cases of ambulances getting stuck in traffic jams right on the path leading from the hospitals' gates to the treatment areas due to a large number of patients recorded at once.

In August, HCMC changed its Covid-19 treatment strategy, classifying patients into three groups for treatment: those with asymptomatic or mild symptoms and no chronic diseases who could be treated at home or quarantine facilities; those with developing symptoms needing to be hospitalized at field hospitals; and severe and critical ill patients.

To treat patients in quarantine facilities, 191 district-level facilities were set up across the city. These were manned and monitored by medics and local task forces who'd undergone thorough medical training.

Experts said the solution has eased the burden on overloaded hospitals, prevented patients from becoming severely ill, and at the same time, allowed patients to receive emergency aid if needed before being transferred to hospitals.

These days, patients being treated at home accounts for around 40 percent of all existing patients in the city.

Another reason contributing to the reduced number of patients becoming severely ill was vaccine coverage, Dung said.

"Earlier, a majority of severely ill patients were those who'd not been vaccinated or had been vaccinated shortly before getting infected and did not have enough time to generate antibodies," he said.

The city has so far administered 8.8 million doses, with more than 2.1 million people getting two shots.

Regarding to the plan to take down Covid-19 field hospitals and return the venues to their original purposes, a city health official, who wants to stay unnamed, told VnExpress that: "This is a big plan and the Health Department is setting up a unit to take care of it."

In a Covid-19 prevention and fighting plan after Sept. 15 submitted to the city’s administration, the department said it will continue to keep several Covid-19 field hospitals.

At the same time, hospitals that have been prioritizing Covid-19 treatment in recent times will return back to normal to take care of patients of other diseases.

The city will still maintain 10 Covid-19 hospitals along with the ICUs until putting the outbreak under control.

Many doctors are of the idea that there is no need to keep many field hospitals in operation because for now, many patients can be isolated at home for treatment and existing hospitals can have a separate area to treat Covid-19 patients alongside patients of other diseases.

Reducing field hospitals will also prevent waste, said an unnamed hospital’s director.

From this moment, the health sector must have a plan to treat Covid-19 patients and recover the economy at the same time to start implementing whenever it comes to the right time because it costs VND500-700 million ($21,900-30,660) of the city’s budget per day to maintain the operation of one such hospital."

HCMC has had 353,655 cases and 13,677 deaths so far in the fourth wave that emerged in late April.

"Medicine package for Covid-19 patients" campaign aims to support patients self-isolating at home. Each donation worth VND380,000 ($16.65) can help buy medicine for one patient. For more information regarding donation methods, kindly refer to this link.

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