Cover story

White blouse soldiers on the frontline

When the 4th wave of Covid-19 struck at the beginning of May, Bac Giang and Bac Ninh were the two epicenters with more than 5,000 cases. Nearly a month later, nearly 3,000 doctors and nurses from different provinces had flowed to these two hotspots to join force with local health authorities in the fight against the pandemic. Acting without waiting for official orders, these volunteer fighters followed their hearts and professional conscience.
“Not going home until the fight is over”

Born in 1993, Dang Minh Hieu is a young doctor who lives 1,700 km away from Bac Ninh and Bac Giang. The image of him having his hair cut off by colleagues at the University Hospital of Medicine and Pharmacy in Ho Chi Minh City before leaving for Bac Giang has gone viral on social networks and touched many hearts. Together with more than 200 doctors and nurses from the hospital who had volunteered to go to the COVID-19 epicenter, Dang Minh Hieu set off with the spirit of “not going home until the fight is over”.

In addition to the 2,743 medical staff working on-site at two hotspots of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang, there are currently 26,768 health workers, experts and medical students willing to volunteer at the pandemic center.
Around that same time, in the remote mountainous province of Yen Bai, on May 25, doctor Hoang Viet Tiep (26 years old), was informed of his journey to Bac Giang only one hour before the trip. With not even enough time to inform his family, the youngest doctor in the Bac Giang volunteer group set off without hesitation.

This “Following your heart” campaign of the medical sector is full of such touching and heartwarming stories. Nguyen Van Tuyen, the chief nurse of the 19-8 Hospital (Ministry of Public Security), and his son both participated in the campaign in Bac Giang and Bac Ninh while his daughter Nguyen Thanh Huyen, a senior at Hanoi Medical College volunteered in Bac Ninh. There is the story of a 20-month-old girl crying when she saw her mother, Nguyen Thi Hanh (1993) on television. Hanh is a doctor of the 103 Military Medical Hospital (Hanoi), who was assigned to go support Bac Giang when she had not yet weaned her baby.

Dang Minh Hieu, a young doctor at the Ho Chi Minh City University Hospital of Medicine and Pharmacy
has his hair cut off before leaving for Bac Giang. Photo: VNA

Doctor Nguyen Thi Ha, at the Vietnam-Sweden Hospital, Uong Bi, Quang Ninh,
hugs a colleague before leaving for the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic in Bac Giang. Photo: Hoang Anh 

Families and colleagues say farewell to the team of doctors of the Vietnam-Sweden Hospital
who leave for Bac Giang. Photo: Hoang Anh

Doctor Vu Tri Tue says farewell to his wife and daughter before leaving for Bac Ninh. Photo: Hoang Anh

350 medical staff and volunteers from the Provincial Center for Disease Control, Hai Duong University of Medical Technology,
Vietnam - Sweden Hospital Uong Bi and Viet Yen District Medical Center participated in the COVID-19 testing
and tracing in Nui Hieu village, Quang Chau commune, Viet Yen district (Bac Giang). Photo: Giang Son Dong

An overview of the No.2 field hospital located at Regiment 831 of the Bac Giang Military Command in Tan Yen district
which has 300 beds. The capacity can be raised to 500 beds if required. Photo: Danh Lam / VNA

Bac Giang province health authorities have established a COVID-19 field hospital
with a capacity of 620 beds in the province's gymnasium. Photo: Danh Lam / VNA

A doctor struggles in the heat in the middle of the epidemic in Bac Giang. Photo: Giang Son Dong

Nearly 3,000 doctors and nurses from different provinces had flowed to Bac Ninh and Bac Giang to join force with local health authorities in the fight against the pandemic. Photo: Hoang Anh

The medical team of Cho Ray Hospital completes their task of supporting Bac Giang and return to Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang Anh

The heartfelt message “Having a baby can wait, but fighting the pandemic cannot” by the couple Mai Anh (1994) and Xuan Diep (1991) who both are doctors at the Vietnam - Sweden Hospital Uong Bi (Quang Ninh) before going to Bac Giang with 200 other doctors and medical staff of Quang Ninh caused ripples across the nation. Keeping the faith in the slogan “fighting the pandemic is like fighting the enemy”, this young doctor couple didn’t even want to think of resting.

For nearly two months, the media constantly reported on the medical aid trips to the pandemic hotspots. That heartfelt urgency probably propelled Nguyen Van Trang, 78 years old, a retired doctor in Thanh Chuong district (Nghe An), to write a letter asking to volunteer on the COVID-19 frontline. “Put your hand on your heart and listen to it. My heart tells me to live with responsibility, love, and never be indifferent to any misfortune. Come to the center of the pandemic, do kind things", wrote Trang in his letter, which clearly stated he was ready to go to Bac Giang, Bac Ninh or anywhere needed in the fight against COVID-19.

These are only a few stories among the more than 5,000 medical staff who volunteered to go fight the pandemic on the frontlines. They all said that they were very proud to wear their white coats, carrying out the mission of a doctor written in the Hippocratic Oath that every medical student has firmly in mind.

“Every battlefield is arduous, every battle has losses and sacrifices; you all are really “soldiers in white blouses” who are committed to carrying out a noble mission taught by our beloved Uncle Ho: “Physicians must be like mothers”, “ and care for the sick as if they were my own brothers and sisters, considering their suffering as my own pain…”.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh

Racing against time on the frontline

Northern Vietnam was going through its hottest days in May and June. In Bac Giang and Bac Ninh, the heat also came from the constant rising number of COVID-19 cases and people in isolation. The 40 Celsius degree temperature made working in tight protective suits stifling but with strong determination from the medical force, the outbreaks were gradually controlled and infected people were promptly treated.

A familiar face at many COVID-19 hotspots, Dr. Tran Nhu Duong, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, is also the leader of the epidemiological investigation and surveillance team in Bac Giang. For one whole year, the number of days this expert could be with his family could be counted on one hand, but he believed that going to the frontline was the duty of health workers during a pandemic. Talking about the pressure he and his colleagues were facing in Bac Giang, the leader described those days as stressful and overloaded due to the massive workload. The medical team was in full-force working mode for every detected case.

Taking samples for COVID-19 testing at the testing center
of the Military Medical Academy in Bac Giang. Photo: Military Medical Academy’s Files

Doctors and nurses from No.3 field hospital in Bac Giang inform patients of COVID-19 test results. Photo: Giang Son Dong

Bac Giang puts into use two cabins for SARS-CoV-2 virus testing
located in Viet Yen and Tan Yen districts. Photo: Danh Lam / VNA

Doctors from Hai Phong Medical University before their working hours at Viet Yen district, Bac Giang. Photo: Giang Son Dong

The X-ray car at the No. 3 field hospital in Bac Giang province. Photo: Giang Son Dong

300 workers of Phu Hong Company, Dinh Tram Industrial Park, Viet Yen District
are vaccinated against COVID-19. Photo: Danh Lam / VNA


Treating patients at No.3 field hospital in Bac Giang. Photo: Giang Son Dong

Doctors and nurses make every effort to treat COVID-19 patients at No. 2 field hospital
in Bac Giang. Photo: No. 2 field hospital in Bac Giang

Inside the patient rooms at No.3 field hospital in Bac Giang. Photo: Giang Son Dong

Portrait of a doctor during the peak of the heat wave in Bac Giang. Photo: Giang Son Dong

The medical forces from different provinces and cities
who are supporting Bac Giang and Bac Ninh are confident in fighting the epidemic. Photo: Giang Son Dong

On May 25, when nearly 400 cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Bac Giang, the work pressure on the team was at its peak. Orders were given continuously, phones rang incessantly, staff was sent to trace cases here and there, assignment after assignment kept coming. The 24/7 working groups kept tracing cases, zoning hotspots and testing samples.

With mottos such as “zoning wide, isolating narrow”, “fast tracking, fast sampling, quick testing and early results”, the sampling and testing are required to move faster than the infection rate. With such efforts, Bac Ninh is entering a decisive phase in the fight against the pandemic.

Surrounded by the sounds of machines running sluggishly at Bac Giang Center for Disease Control, Ms. Truong Thi Tho, staff of the Real - Time PCR Room, Testing Department, said: “For the last several days, I could only manage short naps in between countless sample tests. We have 28 doctors and technicians working here while the number of samples is constantly increasing.”

During that same time, inside the Emergency and Rehabilitation Department of Bac Ninh General Hospital - now separated as a treatment area for COVID-19 patients with severe prognosis, miracles happened while doctors and nurses were straining to save lives.

In the heartfelt letter from Hoang Thi Ngu (45 years old, from Bac Ninh), he thanked the medical staff of the hospital for their efforts in saving her son's life. Carefully handwritten in the letter is her sincere gratitude: “Thanks to the determination of the medical team, my son has overcome the scythe of death.”

Ngu recounted the evening of June 2, when she received a phone call from a doctor informing her that her son’s condition had worsened and he was in danger of death. She remembered instantly bursting into tears, while listening to the consideration of the doctor: “Don't worry, we are all fighting to keep him”. Ngu and the doctor did not know each other, but at that moment, they were connected by an invisible bond and an unconditional trust in this arduous battle.

Recently, the story behind a viral photo has moved millions of people. The photo that was taken through a window shows about 30 doctors and nurses from Bac Giang Traditional Medicine Hospital. They were lined up in two rows, solemnly bowing their heads to say goodbye to the deceased father of nurse Hoang Thi Vui. He passed away at home, but because of her duties, Vui could not go home to mourn her father. Vui, as well as the medical staff at the frontline in Bac Giang and Bac Ninh in general, are all shining examples of courage and sacrifice in the fight against COVID-19./.

“A message on the implementation of Resolution No.84/NQ-CP dated May 29, 2020 of the Government”

Story: Phong Thu - Photos: Giang Son Dong, Hoang Anh, VNA & Files

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