Staff Reports From The Field: Vietnam

As a follow-up to MedShare’s most recent visit to Vietnam in March, two MedShare staff members: Vice President of Development & Marketing, David Pass; and Western Region Executive Director, Chuck Haupt; have traveled to Vietnam to explore how we can continue to best meet health care needs in this beautiful country.  Below is a report from David Pass in Vietnam:

“Today, Chuck and I kicked off our time with our friends at The Atlantic Philanthropies Population Health Programme.  This is Day 1 of a nine-day trip we will taking with them.  For AP, the purpose of the trip is primarily to chronicle the substantial projects they have supported and to introduce MedShare to areas where there might be alignment between what we can provide and the in-country need.  For us, this is part of a proactive approach MedShare is taking to identify projects in need of our support and connecting those projects with donors interested in sponsoring our work with them.

Today, we visited the National Hospital of Pediatrics in Ha Noi, where we were introduced to Professor Nguyen Thanh Liem, Hospital Director, and his fine staff.  This hospital was founded in 1969 and was constructed on the remnants of a medical facility that was bombed by U.S. Armed Forces during the Viet Nam War.  Over time, substantial foundation cracks have developed in many of the older buildings due to the soft ground and these facilities are being rebuilt one by one.  The hospital is one of the primary healthcare providers for children in Viet Nam, who by law receive free care from infancy until age 6.  This hospital serves a population of 30 million, treats more than 50,000 in-patients annually and more than a half million out-patients.  Over 12,000 surgeries are performed here each year, including kidney, liver and bone marrow transplants, dialysis, and open heart surgery.  Families of child patients will travel from the outer provinces, where the caliber of care is substandard and will literally live on the grounds of the hospital while their child is being treated.  To meet the continual demands for its services, the hospital aspires to grow from 600 to 1,000 beds.

As we walked through the current Neonatal ICU, we were literally surrounded by premature babies, more than 160 in a space that on a good day could accommodate 40.  All of the incubators, though in good working condition, were filled to the max, each serving 3 infants.  There were clear demands for space and for the equipment to accommodate these children, a fact that Dr. Liem and his staff are acutely aware of.  With the help of AP, the hospital has been able to construct a brand new, beautiful building, one whole floor of which will be dedicated space for the Neonatal ICU, expanding the capacity by what looks to be at least five-fold.  The building’s design is light and airy and creates a dignified space for children and their families to receive medical care.  In fact, the two AP-funded buildings that I have seen today are specially designed this way to respect the dignity of those who are served and work there, a core value that would resonate with anyone associated with MedShare.  This project was originally designed to be a dormitory for families of children receiving services, but Dr. Liem requested AP to alter the project mid-stream to provide more and better space for NICU patients.  This is one of the least sexy and revenue generating things a hospital could do but addresses a critical need.  It was encouraging to me that that the leadership of the hospital made such a strategic decision based upon patient needs rather than potential revenue generation and that the project funder was willing to work hand-in-hand with them to adapt the project accordingly.

It was clear from speaking with Dr. Liem, Dr. Dung, Vice Director, Dr. Hue, and Mr. Ha, Manager of the Medical Equipment Department, Kirk Evans of KSE Medical, and others here that there is a genuine commitment to excellence in providing care to children and developing a sustainable and replicable system for doing so.  Advances made at this hospital are impacting children treated at rural clinics and in other, less developed countries in Southeast Asia.  The AP folks clearly have sustainability in mind as they have invested millions of dollars in new facilities, equipment and supplies, public advocacy efforts, and continuing education, management training and communications training.  AP seems to be truly interested in funding sustainable solutions, has the money to do so, and makes systemic investments across the board to make those solutions happen.  When seeing good projects like this, you just want to be part of them.”