Midwife Ho Thi Ngoc Loan cleans the mouth and body of premature baby being treated at Hung Vuong Hospital’s Department of Neonatology in HCM City. 

The department was honoured as one of 45 organisations for outstanding and silent contributions to the community by the Party Committee of HCM City and the Vietnam Fatherland Front's HCMC chapter at a ceremony on March 12.

Midwife Ho Thi Ngoc Loan was one of those recognised. At the hospital recently, Loan, with soft manners and a tender look, could be seen cleaning the body of a premature baby, putting a new blue dress on the child, and comforting her to sleep with a sweet voice.

Other midwives and nurses at the department at the same time were busy taking care of other premature babies, with the hopes of improving their health and discharging them from the hospital so they could stay with their family.

Vo Thi Dep, chief nurse at the department, said: “Each nurse or midwife takes care of seven to eight babies. The figure can be higher in the peak season when the number of women giving birth is high.”

“Starting our shift, we work without a break. Our lunches are always eaten in hurry. Taking care of premature babies or low-birthweight babies is more difficult than for others. They need special care. Because of premature birth, they do not have enough strength or coordination to breastfeed or bottle-feed themselves. We have to help them learn how to suck and swallow,” she said.   

Premature babies are treated and taken care of at Hung Vuong Hospital’s Department of Neonatology in HCM City.

Dr Bui Thi Thuy Tien, the department’s head, said: “They have an immature immune system so they are more vulnerable to infections. Their brain also is immature. They often get respiratory distress syndrome as their lungs are not fully developed and cannot provide enough oxygen, causing breathing difficulties.”

The department last year had 4,527 premature, low birth weight or sick babies out of the hospital’s total 43,066 births.

Of the 4,527 babies, more than 95 per cent survived. Thirty-seven per cent weighed less than one kilogramme, while the rate in 2019 was 30 per cent.

Tien recalled: “Seven years ago, one overseas Vietnamese woman from the US returned and came to the hospital for examination and care until giving birth. The woman said that she was advised to abort the fetus because the diagnosis showed that it was not developing. However, she did not want to do this.”

At the 26th week of pregnancy, the baby was born weighing 500 grammes, Tien said, adding that the department’s doctors, nurses and midwives took efforts in saving him.

“He had pneumonia and relapsed many times, making it life-threatening,” she said.

Two months after treatment, he showed signs of being healthy and was discharged from the hospital one month later, weighing ad additional two kilogrammes.     

Thousands of babies have also become healthy after several months of treatment at the department.

“We are encouraged whenever we see babies when discharged from the department,” Tien said, adding that many families name their babies after members of their medical staff.  

Tien said: “The department uses many advanced techniques such as high frequency oscillatory ventilation, less invasive surfactant administration, kangaroo care (in which an infant is hold skin-to-skin against the mother or father's bare chest), peripherally inserted central catheters, and other methods to save premature and low-birthweight babies.”

Hung Vuong Hospital’s Department of Neonatology in HCM City. VNS Photos Gia Loc

'Second' mothers 

Some families who were too poor to afford the cost for treatment and raising the babies have left them at the department.

“Although these babies’ family abandoned them, we will not. We raise and take care of them until they are healthy and take them to social welfare centres in the city,” Tien said.

Dep said: “Thirty to forty babies are abandoned every year at the department. These babies are taken care of by health officials there. They are healthy enough to be discharged from the department, and health officials collaborate with the police to bring them to social welfare centres.”

“Because we take care of them for many months, we feel love for them. We also understand their habits and know what they need through their gestures,” she said.    

“Most of them are at the department for two to three months or even five to six months. So we love them as our children. They lack love from their family,” she added.

Loan was moved to tears when remembering the abandoned babies who were taken to social welfare centres: “The night and day before they are brought to the centre, they refuse to bottle-feed and sleep. They seem to know that they are leaving us.”

“The babies hold my shirt and do not want leave me when I hand them over to a social welfare centre official. At that time, I feel great sorrow.”

“Two days before the Lunar New Year Tet holiday, I brought five babies to Tam Binh Social Welfare Centre in Thu Duc. That night, I couldn't sleep because I thought about them and was worried about them. I wondered if they were receiving good care.”  



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