Overworked: One doctor, nurse per 140-150 Covid-19 patients in HCMC

By Le Phuong   September 8, 2021 | 11:00 pm PT
Overworked: One doctor, nurse per 140-150 Covid-19 patients in HCMC
Doctors and nurses at a Covid-19 field hospital in HCMC's Thu Duc City, July 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa
Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Truong Son has called for lesser workloads for medics in HCMC’s Covid-19 field hospitals, saying constantly overloading them can affect treatment quality.

At Covid-19 field hospitals across the city, a doctor and nurse have to take care of 140-150 patients on average, and each has to work eight-ten hours straight in protective suits, which can cause dehydration and electrolyte disorders, Son said.

Son, who is also head of the Special Standing Unit of the Ministry of Health in Ho Chi Minh City, mentioned the medics’ plight in a statement sent Monday to the HCMC Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control.

Each medical worker is in charge of a large number of patients and this will reduce the quality of treatment and care, he said, based on findings of the special standing unit that inspected and worked with a number of field hospitals treating Covid-19 patients.

In case doctors and nurses have to take the emergency shift, they will have to work 12 hours a day, he noted. When medics have to spend time completing administrative reports after finishing their professional work, they too have to work 12 hours a day.

"Excessive work pressure directly affects the health of medical staff," Son said.

Every day, Covid-19 medics are offered meals valued at VND120,000 ($5.27) per day; but if they get infected, they are treated like any other patient, and the budget for their daily meals drops to VND80,000 per day.

Medics who come from other regions to fight the pandemic in HCMC have found it difficult to consume food cooked in ways that are different from what they are used to. This makes them lose their appetite and their health is affected.

Even going out to buy snacks is a stressful process for the medics because they are strictly questioned and intrusively inspected by checkpoint task forces. Many have reported being asked to open their bags for checking.

Son said hospitals must now guarantee medics enough time off at the end of their shift, avoid their having to work nonstop for a long time, and restrict the use of medical staff in administrative positions.

When there is a lack of human resources for administrative tasks, students and volunteers can be mobilized, the ministry has suggested.

Food suppliers should also adjust their dishes to suit the taste of those from different regions and there should be no drop in the quality of meals for infected medics, Son said.

In the ongoing wave, more than 16,000 medics from the northern and central region have volunteered to work in HCMC and other nearby provinces.

HCMC has recorded 273,154 cases in the new wave and lost 11,074 lives.

Pham Duc Hai, deputy head of the HCMC Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control, said the city now has more than 117,300 staff in the frontline of the Covid-19 fight, including 24,000 from ministries and related agencies.

The Health Ministry said Monday that health departments across the country should ensure enough human resources at medical examination and treatment facilities and arrange backup teams in case medics contract Covid-19 and have to be isolated.

However, " those voluntarily quitting or violating regulations on professional ethics, the ministry would consider administrative discipline or deprive them of the right to use their practicing certificates," it said.

Since the pandemic began until Aug. 9, more than 2,300 medical workers in Vietnam have been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to the National Union of Health Workers. Three have lost their lives.

Inside a field Covid-19 hospital in HCMC. Video by VnExpress/Vu Thinh, Tuan Viet

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