As Covid resurges in Hanoi, people are feeling anxious and neglected as local health officials do not provide sufficient guidance or support.
Thang, 34, who lives in downtown Lang Ha Street, has been waiting for a call from local health authorities with instructions on Covid treatment for several days but has received none.
After testing himself and finding he had contracted the virus, he looked up the ward health station phone number to report and was given another number to contact for medical workers to come to his house.
“They went on to give me another phone number, telling me that if the line is busy I should keep trying. But no one picked up.
He was able to reach a medical worker the following day and declare his health and vaccination status. But he was not guided or treated because he could not furnish a valid PCR test result and had to find a way to perform a PCR test at home on his own.
He started to cough a lot and had a high fever. He tried in vain to contact the local health officials.
He self-medicated with vitamins, water and fruits, and sweated it out at home using steam.
He reassures himself he “will soon recover from the disease” because he is young, has no underlying disease and has got two shots of the vaccine.
After five days the medical team called and dispatched someone to cordon off his house. But by the time they came his coughing was less severe, had no headache and only ran a slight fever.
Since Ministry of Health requires Covid patients to home quarantine for 10 days, he only needed to isolate for five more days.
“I have to treat my Covid myself. I cannot call local health officials and wait forever for a response from them. However, I had to follow proper procedures, notifying local authorities that I had contracted Covid, to obtain a certificate of recovery later on”.
In a similar plight was Linh, a woman in Dong Da District and in her 36th week of pregnancy.
She said her family members also had to treat themselves at home after waiting in vain for medical assistance.
Her husband, one-year-old daughter, sister, and mother all contracted the virus.
Every day she would call the ward healthcare provider, but the line would always be busy.
“Except for my daughter, our entire family has been vaccinated and we have mild symptoms. We are still concerned because we have not received any instructions.
“So, when our Covid test results are negative, who should we contact, who will issue a certificate of recovery, and how should we handle and clean up the waste?”
Linh’s infected friends also treated themselves at home without medicines or assistance from authorities.
“It’s as if you have been abandoned,” she said.
“People call each other to share tips on how to care for Covid patients at home and offer encouragement”.
Over the past week the number of infections has steadily increased in the capital, and in the fourth Covid wave that began last April there have been over 88,000 cases so far.
Each ward medical facility has only eight to 10 employees but serves a population running into the tens of thousands.
Furthermore, lacking adequate facilities and with equipment often degraded, the grassroots healthcare system cannot care for everyone.
This is common knowledge, and new Covid patients are understandably anxious as a result.
An employee at a ward medical center in Hanoi explains to a man about the medical declaration process for suspected Covid cases, Dec. 21, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le
Many people with mild symptoms are treating themselves at home only call the ward medical facility when their rapid test turns up negative to ask for a certificate of recovery.
Dr Nguyen Minh Nguyen of the Hanoi Medical University Hospital is worried about this trend.
When someone tests positive, contacting the ward medical staff is an important step and they should wait to receive instructions on treatment and nutrition, he said.
He explained that in the event of severe symptoms, the local medical authorities act as the focal point, connecting the patient with a hospital for admission.
“Even when vaccinated, there is a 2-5 percent rate of severe critical illness, depending on the condition and time of vaccination…”
He pointed out further that the ward health department is in charge of zoning, identifying outbreaks, limiting infections, and protecting others from patients, which require collaboration by everyone.
The Dong Da District administration said the local medical station has an extremely heavy workload and the workforce has been stretched thin.
Its personnel are dealing with severe cases while also performing investigation and testing, making it difficult to answer all calls.
The Dinh Cong Ward health station in Hoang Mai District has only nine doctors and nurses but serves a population of 50,000, taking samples for testing, providing instructions to new Covid patients, vaccinating the populace, and so on.
Hanoi already established an online chat group to connect patients with private pharmacies and clinics and offer consultation, relieving pressure on the medical stations.
There are also networks set up by health professionals to provide support and consultation over the phone.
Since many Covid patients are unable to contact medical personnel, the city Department of Health has called on local authorities to change their approach to treating Covid patients at home, focusing on risk management to reduce the rate of severe cases and deaths.
Experts said if someone tests positive, they should contact the ward medical center calmly to get instructions and should monitor their blood oxygen level for the first two weeks.
Nguyen said: “People should be cautious since their health condition might unexpectedly worsen”.
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