More than 200 students from four universities based in the central city of Da Nang have registered to volunteer at the recently opened Tien Son makeshift hospital to fight the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The makeshift hospital, erected in less than two weeks at the Tien Son Sports Arena in Hai Chau District, was officially launched on Friday last week.
The venue has a normal capacity of 500 beds, which can be doubled to accommodate up to 1,000 beds for COVID-19 patients if necessary.
“I would like to remind you that what we are dealing with are neither F1 cases [those in close contact with COVID-19 patients] nor suspected cases. We’re facing real COVID-19 patients and can be exposed to infection if we don’t seriously follow the health protection measures,” said one health expert to the student volunteers in a training session at the makeshift hospital.
The volunteers are more than 200 students from four local universities that teach medicine and pharmacy.
They want to lend a hand with the city’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic while also gaining invaluable experience in their professional work.
|Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son (second right) talks to volunteer students before the Tien Son makeshift field hospital was put into operation in Da Nang City, Vietnam. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre|
Can’t stand doing nothing
The student volunteers were required to join medical rehearsals at the makeshift hospital before it launched to get familiar with dealing with the circumstances that may occur in real life.
Among the rehearsals is a hypothetical situation of receiving new COVID-19 patients. More than ten students pretended to be patients while the others sat in the grandstand to observe how skilled medical experts handle the new cases.
In another hypothetical situation, the medical workers had to respond to an emergency when critical patients needed attention.
Sitting in the grandstand, Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, a fourth-year student from the Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy, turned to her classmate nearby to rehearse the principles of the ‘one-way protocol’ they had learned from Bach Mai Hospital experts in the previous training session.
This protocol requires that the flow of movement in all hallways be in one direction, with separate exits for patients and medical workers, to minimize the risk of infection.
Ha, like her classmates, had passed a COVID-19 screening with negative test results to be eligible to take part in the training session.
“My university had 400 students who answered a previous call for volunteers. I missed the chance although I had already registered because there was an F1 case living in my residential area, which caused us to be considered F2 cases,” Ha explained her excitement to be part of the action this time.
Ha and some of her friends, who come from the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, had decided to stay in Da Nang during the implementation of broad social distancing measures from late July instead of going back to their hometowns.
Nguyen Thi Anh, one of Ha’s classmates, had previously missed the opportunity to volunteer as a frontline medical worker.
She said the fact that a lot of medical workers came to Da Nang in huge numbers from across the nation pushed her to do something.
Living in such a 'historic' situation, Anh said she signed up for volunteering to treat COVID-19 patients because she could not stand sitting around without doing anything.
“It is better to do something at the quarantine center or treatment area than just sit and wait for information supplied by the Ministry of Health,” Anh said.
“All my friends have participated in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, so I can’t miss the opportunity for the second time."
|Medical workers demonstrate the protocol for receiving new patients to volunteer students at the Tien Son makeshift hospital in Da Nang City, Vietnam. Photo: Truong Trung / Tuoi Tre|
Hope for no patient
Authorities began making preparations for personnel who would run the Tien Son makeshift hospital during its construction in early August.
The new facility provides many students with invaluable first-hand experience in dealing directly with COVID-19 patients.
Only students who had studied for at least three years in medicine or pharmacy and had previously completed an internship period in a hospital or clinic were eligible to register to volunteer at the makeshift hospital.
It turned out the footnote warning that “the makeshift hospital is where COVID-19 patients receive treatment” in the application form did not scare off many applicants, as there were more than 200 people who volunteered for the program.
Before registering, Nguyen Thi Nhat Tien was warned that she would have to dedicate at least one month of her time to the job.
Ideally, each volunteer will be on the front line for two weeks before being moved to a quarantine center for another 14 days of isolation before they can return home.
Despite the circumstances, the fifth-year student at the Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy agreed to the terms with pleasure.
Although Tien had never been in any makeshift hospitals before, she felt confident thanks to having had three internship programs in the last three semesters.
So this time Tien wants to “be a part of history,” something she and her friends jokingly say to relieve some of the stress when they are working.
“Considering this an opportunity for me to gain knowledge and experience makes everything easier to bear,” Tien said.
“I was told that there would be many good doctors and experts gathered here, so it would be a good chance to learn and enrich my medical knowledge."
Putting on the full-body protective suit for the first time, Van Thi Thanh Uyen understood what awaited her, including the risk of exposure and the long working hours of up to eight hours each day.
The student from Duy Tan University based in Da Nang had undertaken two training sessions held by experts from the Ministry of Health. She had also participated in the rehearsals of accepting patients, eating, and using medical equipment.
Thanks to what she had been trained for, Uyen no longer felt worried despite the imminent risk of infection. Now her only worry was her parents who only learned of her decision after she had registered successfully.
“Observing how everything is operated with care here really puts my mind at ease. I think there will not be too much risk,” said Uyen.
“Although I hope to practice beside skilled professionals, I also really hope the makeshift hospital does not have to accept any patients."