Mission Dong Thap, Vietnam
The second volunteer medical mission of the year undertaken by Arpan Global and its large cadre of supporters was October 5-12, 2013, to the Thai Hoa Hospital in Cao Lanh Vietnam (the Dong Thap province); this hospital lies to the south of Ho Chi Minh city by about a 3 hour bus drive in a very rural area. It is a tropical area, lush with green vegetation and abundant rice fields. The people are warm, friendly, eager to practice any English they know, curious about the rest of the world, and willing to help in any way possible for whatever reason. Their hospitality was heartfelt and their kind and gentle words and actions clearly came from the heart.
The Thai Hoa Hospital is a relatively new, private hospital built specifically to serve a large catchment area in the Don Thap province and is located in fairly close proximity to the older public hospital. The first floor contains the outpatient clinic areas, radiology, pharmacy, emergency treatment and waiting areas. Upstairs is the labor and delivery units, postpartum, the nursery (which includes three isolettes and a ventilator for premature babies), and the pediatrics ward. The third floor holds the operating rooms (including one dedicated for cesarean sections), recovery room, and the general wards. The facility is clean, modern, and there is a real sense of pride and ownership among those who work there.
This was one of the largest mission teams that Arpan Global has assembled with 52 dedicate individuals making their way to the other side of the planet in order to participate. The range of medical services represented was quite wide:
- Pediatrics, including neonatology
- Internal Medicine, including cardiology
- Radiology, including ultrasonography
- Surgery, including plastics, GI, urology, orthopedics, ENT
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Occupational therapy
- Social worker
And even nonmedical experts were present- willing and able to do whatever they could to help with patient flow and even patient care when possible.
While the hospital was impressive for its modernity, it is relatively new and as a private hospital, it attracts a patient population that can be limited in size. The outpatient sites serviced by the team were another story. Patients in local towns and villages lined up for the chance to get a lottery ticket to be seen by the visiting medical team and they were there early in the morning, ready and willing to wait all day if necessary. Triage desks were set up at each site with local volunteers from Cao Lanh serving as translators. Vital signs were taken and after the concerns of the patient were ascertained, they were directed to an available medical team for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. (If specific specialty needs were identified, they were sent to the experts on site). A space for occupational and physical therapy was created at each site, as was an impromptu pharmacy and dispensary. The dental area was extremely popular and often the last to finish each day. After several of these day long outpatient visits, it became clear that hypertension (often severe and completely uncontrolled), osteoarthritis, chronic low back pain, and lack of oral hygiene were among the preeminent and common complaints in the general population.
Trips to orphanages along with visits to government sponsored homes for disabled children and the elderly homeless were also part of the itinerary. Arpan Global was able to donate a water filter, washer and drier, and a computer to some of these facilities. A day-long trip to a shelter for women and girls who had been victims of human trafficking highlighted the impact that desperate levels of poverty and lack of vocational skill sets plays in enabling trafficking to occur.
By the end of the week, the team had seen over 800 patients, performed 125 dental procedures, several complex medical procedures, and many diagnostic procedures, allowing for appropriate treatment and intervention to begin for those patients. More importantly, the team members felt like they had made a difference in the lives of people and the only issue of concern was the feeling that they wanted to do more. Vietnam has been called Asia’s ‘comeback kid’ economically and while many are feeling the success, there still remains a great need for modernization and improvement in the health care system. Arpan Global is proud to have had the opportunity to make its own contribution towards meeting that need in its own way.