“Having to perform well under fire in the face of adversity will test even the strongest professionals. The way that FV’s staff has executed their duties consistently to a gold standard through this pandemic demonstrates the incredible resilience and capability of everyone at this Hospital,” said FVH’s CEO Dr Jean-Marcel Guillon, reflecting on the medical team’s dedication to patient care since Covid-19 first hit Vietnam. Our team members’ solidarity and dedication to overcoming challenges will continue to act as a strong foundation for FV to endure during any difficult times ahead.

None of us will forget the images of patients filling the corridors and stretchers lined up in the parking lot under FV’s expanded roofs, or the sound of ambulances and cries of pain. We still deeply feel the self-sacrifice of our colleagues and wider community, and the senseless loss of life. The moment when FV’s management had to make the hard call whether “to accept or not to accept any patients” still feels like yesterday, and for most of us, that sense of being at the edge of a precipice will never fade.

Patients waiting to be hospitalised at the Emergency area, FV Hospital

No one can forget the moment when Covid-19 pandemic hit hard: the hospital was overloaded with patients while also suffering from a lack of resources, and the rapid spread of Covid-19 across the country and steeply inclining case count continued to put pressure on the healthcare system. Panicked, fearful patients did not know where to go as medical resources became exhausted and many hospitals were forced to close temporarily due to isolation requirements for F0 & F1 cases. As every minute passed, difficulties continued to add up.

At times, FV’s team was understaffed by nearly 200 employees due to regulations governing F0 and F1 isolations, but we were determined not to close our doors. Remaining employees worked longer days, “determined not to refuse any patients that need care,” as the CEO, Dr Jean-Marcel Guillon shared.

FV has never experienced such an inundation of patients to its Emergency Department, not to mention the number of patients who had to be treated on stretchers placed wherever there was space. Every time the hospital opened more rooms to receive Covid-19 patients, they were filled immediately, and yet the phone kept ringing as people called in, begging: “Doctor, please save my mother, save my child.”

 FV Patients are monitored in the isolation area of the FV Anaesthesiology and ICU

FV’s team of doctors, nurses, care assistants, and other supporting workers had no experience in treating this disease, or caring for the patients that had contracted it. Many of the staff at FV Covid-19 department had been transferred from other areas of the hospital to support this newly established department, led by Dr Ho Minh Tuan, Head of Interventional Cardiology, who had volunteered to take on the additional role of department head. Working alongside each other, they studied books and the Internet, developing a top-down process for treating patients.

Ms Chu Thi Nguyet Anh, Head of Nursing at the Internal Medicine Department, said: “Nurses with many years of experience were also considered newbies during this time. The situation was unprecedented and constantly changing, so everyone had to constantly seek out the latest knowledge around Covid-19 and learn from reality so that we could update our processes accordingly. Some our nurses received only two or three days’ training before they had to face the very harsh reality in the hospital.”

As the pandemic continued to unfold, many members of the Board of Directors and hundreds of other medical staff did not go home for days at a time, deciding to stay on duty at the hospital.

Dr Vu Truong Son, Head of the Department of Infection Control, was at every juncture at all times to raise and solve issues related to Covid-19 infection control from the community to the hospital, and vice versa. Dr Son hardly slept: most days this young doctor could be spotted in the Covid-19 treatment area, then seen in the Emergency Department, and later found among his teammates providing vaccines for the community.

As FV’s team worked, they forgot the fear that they and their families might get infected. During those unforgettable days, the smiles of Covid patients being discharged from the hospital after a hard journey to overcome their illness were a great source of encouragement for FV’s frontline team to never give up. Seeing recovered patients snatched from the jaws of death walk through the front doors inspired doctors, nurses, and medical staff to work day and night at the Covid-19 Treatment Department both on behalf of patients still occupying hospital beds, and those who would be admitted in the coming days, weeks and months.

A patient aged over 90 years old is discharged from hospital after winning their fight against Covid-19

At the end of June 2021, FV’s private hospital block had not been assigned to receive and treat Covid-19 patients, although FV’s Emergency Department doors were still open to a growing crowd of patients who had nowhere else to go. Dr Jean-Marcel Guillon, FV’s CEO, decided to open the private block to receive all patients. “They need us and the government; and Vietnam’s healthcare system needs us too,” he told his colleagues.

FV has always had policies in place to guide the hospital through responding to natural disasters, including pandemics. When Vietnam’s Government asked FV to act, the hospital was ready and the management team quickly organised FV into a split-model hospital: one half treated Covid-19 patients, and the other half took in regular inpatients and mothers who had gone into labour and were testing negative for Covid-19.

A temporary tent erected at FV’s Emergency Department

Treating Covid-19 patients required the hospital to equip numerous negative pressure rooms, install liquefied oxygen systems, purchase oxygen tanks and delivery machines to treat hundreds of patients at a time, and create separate entrances to minimise the risk of infection for other patients. These implementations meant training staff quickly on the protocols for treating high mortality rate diseases such as Covid-19, and ensuring they were fully equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent them from becoming infected while treating others.

In response to the high volume of patients being admitted, the Emergency Department built more temporary rooms, bought more containers to create reception areas, and set up tents. Even so, FV still did not have enough space for the sheer numbers of patients coming to the Hospital seeking care. Since inception, FV staff has never needed to place patients on stretchers that extended from corridors out to the parking lot and beyond.

FV’s response team also created new areas for vaccination, Covid-19 testing, and a temporary reception area for F0 patients at the Emergency Department outside the hospital building to serve needs as they arose.

The Internal Medicine inpatient area became a place to treat Covid-19 patients. Initially, the department had four rooms; later it was increased to nine rooms with 22 beds. At the beginning of July 2021, when the pandemic reached its peak, the Covid-19 treatment department was expanded to cover the entire boarding area on the fourth floor with 63 beds for patients who did not need ventilators and 15 beds equipped with High Flow Nasal Cannula (HFNC) machines.

BY THE NUMBERS

Due to the difficult situation regarding transportation, FV medical staff needed to use an ambulance to return to the hospital after a day providing vaccinations in the community.

FV staff provide vaccinations at SECC Centre, District 7

During the last days of July 2022, Pier Laurenza, a French photographer and FV patient, received two doses of vaccine under direction of the French Government and saw, first-hand, how professionally FV had organised its vaccination campaign. He asked FV to let him stay at the hospital, to follow the team silently so that he could document this historical moment in time. When asked, “Aren’t you afraid of getting infected?” he replied, “I’ve been vaccinated with two doses of the vaccine, and if the frontline team receiving patients is not afraid, why should I be afraid?”


FV Hospital
19.09.2022