Our partner Dr. Nguyen Ly Thinh Truong, a cardiac surgeon from Vietnam National Children’s Hospital in Hanoi, shares how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the work of the cardiovascular surgery department he leads. Although Vietnam reported its first case of COVID-19 in January, it has just over 300 cases and no reported deaths over the following 5 months. According to the Exemplars in Global Health, this success is attributed to a developed public health system, a strong central government, and a proactive containment strategy based on comprehensive testing, tracing and quarantining.
Can you provide a brief overview of the current situation with COVID-19 in Hanoi and in Vietnam?
The situation with COVID-19 in Hanoi and Vietnam overall is not critical, with no more new cases within the country in the last 90 days. All the new positive COVID-19 cases we have now are people who came from other countries. They are under quarantine in specific areas for COVID-19 patients. We don’t know what will happen in the future, as there might be some positive COVID-19 cases without symptoms amongst the population. We do not trace them due to the screening program not being spread throughout the country.
Have you had COVID-19 patients admitted to your hospital or unit? How has your hospital and cardiac program been impacted due to the pandemic?
Only one COVID-19 patient was admitted to our hospital 3 months ago. During the national quarantine in April, we performed emergency operations only, and the number of procedures was decreased to half. The hospital revenue was reduced by up to 200%. However, staff morale was positive because they could take more time off. The patient volume on the tenth floor where our pediatric cardiac unit is located was 25-30 patients compared to 100-120 patients before the pandemic.
What challenges have your patients and their families had accessing the care they need?
During the quarantine, the traffic was blocked between provinces, except for emergency cases. To be able to travel, families had to receive permission from our hospital for their child’s admission. Ambulances were very difficult to find or rent, and public transport was blocked.
How busy is the pediatric cardiac unit now?
Now we do elective surgeries, and we are very busy. Patients who were not operated on during the time of emergency-only cases are now coming in and are on the waiting list. Since late April, my cardiac team has been doing an average of six surgeries a day. Yet the number of daily hospital admissions is still pretty low.