Fighting the pandemic the responsibility of medical workers: official

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Deputy Health Minister Nguyễn Trường Sơn directs COVID-19 prevention and control in Đà Nẵng during the pandemic resurgence last year. Photo vietnamplus.vn

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyễn Trường Sơn speaks to vietnamplus.vn about how health workers dealt with the resurgence of COVID-19 in the central city of Đà Nẵng last year, which marked the second wave of COVID-19 in Việt Nam with infections reported in the city’s major hospitals

How did you feel when you were assigned as a leader in the fight against COVID-19 in the central city of Đà Nẵng last year?

It was a big challenge for me at that time. We – the special task force of the health ministry, arrived in Đà Nẵng with the assignment to minimise the number of new infections, COVID-19 deaths and increase recovery cases. We were also expected to help Đà Nẵng improve its ability in COVID-19 prevention and control.

With such pressure, without the co-operation of colleagues and Đà Nẵng authorities, I would not have completed the assignment. The directions from central agencies, the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control, the Ministry of Health and leading doctors from Hà Nội, Huế and HCM City were also very helpful to us.

The team including many senior experienced doctors across the country discussed and selected strategies in disease prevention, treatment and improved testing capacity so they would be most suitable to Đà Nẵng’s situation at that time.

As COVID-19 resurged in Đà Nẵng last July, many health workers volunteered on the pandemic front lines. What do you think about their actions?

I highly appreciated people from across the country volunteering to Đà Nẵng, working in the front lines in the fight against COVID-19.

At that time, the pandemic was developing complexly with three major hospitals in the city under lockdown due to confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Before I left Hà Nội for Đà Nẵng, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc and the acting health minister told me to work with the National Steering Committee and local agencies to soon control the disease.

To me, that was a task to fulfil. I told myself that I would return to Hà Nội only when I had fulfilled the task.

The other health workers who volunteered to go to Đà Nẵng at that time were also willing to take tasks on the pandemic front lines. We were all ready for the tasks and were all determined to return home when we successfully helped control the pandemic in Đà Nẵng.

What do you remember most during the tough time in Đà Nẵng?

I remember the very first days we arrived in Đà Nẵng. It was the toughest time. At that time, all patients with serious health conditions in Đà Nẵng C Hospital and Đà Nẵng General Hospital were moved to other hospitals such as Huế Central Hospital.

We set up two field hospitals at Hòa Vang District Health Centre and Đà Nẵng Lung Hospital and started receiving COVID-19 patients. The number of locally-transmitted cases and deaths increased daily, even in hospitals.

I remember that we saw four deaths on the same day. That was such a bad day that I can describe exactly my feelings. It was like a huge burden pressed on my heart, on my shoulders. But then, I recognised that if my colleagues saw my weakness or disappointment, they would feel disappointed and weak too. So, I decided to keep strong.

What pressure did you face at that time?

We faced many pressures and difficulties. First, we saw the pandemic spreading widely across Đà Nẵng. Second, many patients with serious medical conditions were infected with COVID-19. Despite our efforts, we failed to save some of them.

The first death relating to COVID-19 in Việt Nam was reported in Đà Nẵng, which put medical workers there under high pressure. To date, 35 deaths have been reported.

The third major pressure was about the decision to impose social distancing measures in Đà Nẵng in the middle of August. Some called for stricter measures like putting the city under lockdown as China did to Wuhan.

At that time, chairman of Đà Nẵng City People’s Committee Huỳnh Đức Thơ asked us – the ministerial special task force – if lockdown was needed. We were very conflicted as lockdown could make the whole city’s economy sluggish.

With evidence collected from our visits to the city’s concentrated quarantine areas, production facilities and treatment areas, we confidently suggested lockdown was not needed. We recommended Đà Nẵng authorities continue to implement Prime Minister’s Directive No16 on social distancing but in a stronger, more drastic and determined manner. We called it Directive 16+.

What did you feel when the last COVID-19 patients in Đà Nẵng recovered?

I was more than happy. When the last Đà Nẵng COVID-19 patient recovered, I was in Hà Nội. I and other members of the ministry’s specialised task force met for a party to toast our success. We had fulfilled our responsibilities.

What are the keys for Việt Nam to maintain its success in the fight against COVID-19?

I think that the most important factor is the active and determined participation of all sectors, agencies and people. The public play a very important role in the COVID-19 fight. If everyone is aware of the need to protect themselves, join reporting and detecting suspected cases, we will actively and effectively control the disease.

Medical workers must stay alert all the time. They work on the front lines during the pandemic so they must not neglect their duty. VNS

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