Do Hong Linh’s phone has been ringing constantly after she posted online that she is a recovered Covid-19 patient and offered to care for newly infected patients during Tet.
“The outbreak has left me with financial hardship, and so I am now offering to work as a caregiver during Tet for VND1.5-2 million ($66-88.3) day to earn money to pay off debts and my children’s school fees,” the 35-year-old, who was infected in the middle of last year, says.
Linh used to be the owner of a small garment factory in HCMC’s Hoc Mon District but the fourth Covid wave that struck Vietnam last April forced her to shut it down.
She is now experienced after caring for at least 10 Covid patients.
After seeing the number of new infections in Hanoi still high before Tet (the Lunar New Year), which falls on Feb. 1 this year, she flew there to look for a job.
Though the salary is high, especially during Tet, the number of Covid survivors who offer to care for newly infected people is low, she says.
Last September, when the pandemic was raging, HCMC called on recovered patients to join the frontlines in the Covid fight.
Dr Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, deputy director of the city Department of Health at the time, said recovered patients have better immunity than people who get two doses of a vaccine.
Linh says, “Seeing me fully recovered and healthy, patients will be motivated and have the faith to overcome difficulties”.
Since August last year, after recovering, Linh has been working as a caregiver.
Most of her clients have been seriously ill patients in hospital, and, depending on the patient’s living conditions and illness, she charges VND800,000-1 million a day and is provided with meals. It could sometimes rise to VND1.2-1.5 million.
“That’s the rate in Saigon. With Hanoi recording a rising number of cases, I can earn up to VND2 million a day”.
She says that many of her friends in HCMC are also willing to fly to Hanoi to take care of patients.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, Hanoi has been seeing nearly 3,000 cases a day in the past few weeks. In the ongoing outbreak it has had over 123,000 cases so far.
The Department of Medical Service Administration said there were 670 severe cases as of Jan. 24, up 3.5 percent from a week before.
The large number of patients means the need for caregivers has skyrocketed.
If she takes care of severe patients, Linh is responsible for personal hygiene, bathing the person, wiping fluids, feeding them milk, and others.
In the case of patients with milder symptoms, she just needs to buy food for them, massage them and help them walk.
But caregivers can hardly sleep at night since if a patient’s condition suddenly deteriorates they must call the doctor immediately.
The period a newly infected patient needs care ranges from one week to a month.
Of the 10 people Linh took care of, four succumbed, almost all elderly people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Do Hong Linh (R) stands next to the bed of her client at a hospital in HCMC, September 2021. Photo courtesy of Linh
Nguyen Lan Anh of HCMC, 38, an experienced caregiver, says: “In addition to economic reasons, I also want [to help] patients overcome the disease”.
She is also happy she can make patients feel less lonely during their stay in hospital.
She says she cried a lot when her first patient died.
“The patient died alone since their relatives were in isolation or were afraid of infection and would not go to the hospital”.
Like most caregivers, Anh often has to lie down on the ground next to the patient’s bed.
And then there are the times she has to suffer a patient who is tired and angry, even abusive.
Lan Anh worked as a caregiver for 14 years before she turned to taking care of Covid patients. Because of her experience she is trusted and gets paid VND1 million a day.
She says: “I can earn up to VND1.5 million during Tet. Meals are excluded and the patient’s family pays for my Covid tests”.
Sometimes five or six people contact her at the same time.
Her salary then depends on her ability to negotiate with a patient’s family.
She often chooses to take care of people in serious condition and those who have no one to care for them in hospital.
The surge in the caseloads in Hanoi and some northern provinces is putting a strain on medical facilities.
The Hai Phong city Department of Health has issued an urgent dispatch encouraging patients’ relatives and volunteers who are asymptomatic, have mild symptoms or have recovered to join the Covid fight.
Like Linh, Anh too has been hired through Tet.
“It’s okay if I do not go home for Tet since I plan to take a half month to visit my hometown after the holidays,” the woman from the central Ha Tinh Province adds.
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