Free, low-charging clinics provide poor Vietnamese with good care, treatment

UPDATED : 03/01/2015 12:05 GMT + 7

Poor patients are shown thronging for free check-ups and medicine on January 24, 2015 at the Can Tho City charity clinic, located in Ninh Kieu District in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho. Tuoi Tre

TTN – A number of healthcare facilities in Vietnam have been committed to offering quality, caring treatment to the have-nots for free or at nominal fees for the past few years.

These free or low-charging clinics supply equally quality treatment and devoted care to underprivileged patients who cannot afford to go to overcrowded public hospitals or private infirmaries which demand higher fees.

Among them is the Can Tho City charity clinic, founded in 2003 and located in Ninh Kieu District in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

Built on a 200m² plot, the clinic treats illnesses related to cardiology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, and dermatology.

In March 2003, Dr. Tran Van Tot set up a charity medical team and seven friends who are all retired doctors joined him soon later.

The team operated mostly on the members’ limited pension and philanthropists’ donation.

Staff members of the Can Tho City charity clinic. Photo: Tuoi Tre

That year, the team made 11 trips and offered free treatment to 7,700 patients and eye surgery for 630 others, which cost a total of VND430 million (US$19,776).

After several relocations to cater to the rising number of patients, the team finally settled at the current venue and established the five-room clinic in February 2011, whose construction cost was VND700 million ($32,194).

The clinic now has a staff of 50 members.

Each examination session, organized every Saturday, receives well over 100 patients who often leave the clinic contentedly with free medicines and even some food gifts.

Tran Van Thanh, 72, from Hau Giang Province in the Mekong Delta, who came to the clinic to treat his coughs, said he felt warmed by the free treatment and the staff’s commitment.

The doctors also refer those patients with diseases which are beyond the staff’s capacity to a local hospital for free surgery or low-cost medical attention.

Eighty-two patients had their eyes operated on for free last year.

A number of people in need are also given free wheelchairs, while several others are provided with early diagnosis of cancer or other terminal diseases.

Patients are pictured waiting for free check-ups and medicine at the Can Tho City charity clinic. Photo: Tuoi Tre

According to Dr. Tot, head of the clinic, 179 people were examined and given free medicine, which cost a total of almost VND12 million ($552) during the latest session.

The funding and medical equipment are mostly donated by overseas Vietnamese and local organizations and individuals.

The clinic staff also makes regular trips to remote areas to offer free treatment to needy patients.

All the trips are filmed and shown to philanthropists to update them on how their donations are of help to the poor.

The clinic has been lauded by the Vietnam Medicine Association and Can Tho City’s science and technology society for its massive contributions.

A seasoned doctor at the Can Tho City charity clinic examines an elderly patient. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Devoted acupuncturists

Since 2007, dozens of qualified acupuncturists in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long have offered free home acupuncture treatment to poor patients, with several cured of chronic illnesses and even jerked back from the grip of death.

The model of free, home acupuncture treatment was launched in 2007 by the Vinh Long Acupuncture Association and grassroots medical agencies.

Nguyen Van Tep in Mang Thit District, who is paralyzed halfway down, now can move his lower body a little bit and speak more articulately after a month of free treatment given by Nguyen Thi Kim Thoa, a seasoned acupuncturist in the province.

Tep’s neighbor, Le Minh Nhut, 25, broke his backbone in an occupational accident.

His treatment, which cost over VND100 million ($4,659), was of little help.

“I still couldn’t move when I got home from the hospital. Thoa then gave me free acupuncture treatment every day for a few months. I was disheartened at first, but she kept encouraging me to continually practice until I could walk again,” Nhut recalled.

Thoa currently has over 15 patients in Mang Thit and adjacent districts.

She provides treatment for all her paralyzed patients at their home no matter how far it is.

Several poor patients insisted on paying for her petrol, but she adamantly turned it down.

According to Le Binh An, chair of the provincial Acupuncture Association, such acupuncture clinics across the province have supplied free, effective treatment to a large number of needy patients.

The in-patients and their caretakers are also offered free meals.

Acupuncture needles are seen in close-up in this Tuoi Tre file photo

Fifty-seven-year-old Nguyen Van Thien, another veteran acupuncture specialist, travels some dozen kilometers five days a week to practice acupuncture on his patients at home.

Over the past two years, he has never missed an appointment with any patient.

Thien always tries his best to save his critically ill patients though their chances of survival or recovery are quite slim.

He once cured a fully paralyzed patient, who made an incredible recovery only after a few months and can now walk and even ride a bike.

The Vinh Long Acupuncture Association has offered free and low-cost treatment to thousands of patients throughout the province and in the region.

The association also encourages locals to use simple, cheap remedies, particularly herbal medicines, and do physical therapy at home to speed up the treatment process.

Thoa, of the Mang Thit District Acupuncture chapter, first knew about acupuncture when she underwent treatment for her insomnia.

She then received formal medical training and has practiced acupuncture for over 20 years now.

Similarly Nguyen Van Truong, of Tran Van Thoi District, took his mother to a grassroots acupuncture clinic for treatment.

After his mother was cured three years ago, he was set on mastering the practice to help cure more people.

Clinic which charged $0.7 fee

Over 25 years, Dr. Truong Huu Khanh, of Pediatrics Hospital 1 in Ho Chi Minh City, ran a private clinic in the outlying district of Hoc Mon which charged VND15,000 ($0.7) for examinations and medicine.

He said he could not demand higher fees as most of his patients were poor.

Khanh made a tough decision to close the clinic earlier this year for health reasons.

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