return icon

Intensive-care physician faces daily 'battle of wits' with critical Covid-19 cases

Dr Pham Van Phuc has been honored as one of the 10 outstanding young faces of Hanoi in 2021.


Dr Pham Van Phuc


Phuc, a physician at the Intensive Care Department at the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases, works eight hours a shift in a protective suit in rooms with no electric fans or air conditioners that have been turned off to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

After his shift, the young doctor's clothes are often soaking wet, especially in the summer.

One day in early March last year, when just starting the morning shift, Phuc was informed that two severely ill patients would be transferred from the Department of Emergency to the Department of Intensive Care, and that other patients needed to be relocated.

“There were 10 patients at the intensive care unit at that moment. And we had to race against the clock to do a lot of work to prepare for this, from following procedures to relocateming patients, to preparing medical equipment ready for the treatment,” Phuc said.

One of them was a 69-year-old British man, and the other was patient No 19. Both of them had to be put on a ventilator.

The condition of the other patient No 19 worsened very quickly, and he needed ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) intervention just after three days. The pathogenesis of Covid-19 had not been fully discovered by that time, so the treatment plans were unclear. Phuc became anxious as no improvement could be seen day after day.


Dr Pham Van Phuc, a physician at the Intensive Care Department at the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases, works eight hours a shift in a protective suit in rooms with electric fans or air conditioners that have been turned off to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.


The struggle for the life of patient 19 became fierce when he fell into cardiac arrest. Phuc received an emergency call about the cardiac arrest when he was sleeping and then rushed to the hospital to save the patient.

After electric shock and constant pressure on the heart, the patient had a heartbeat, but then lost the heartbeat again. After the second electric shock, the heart beat for 5 minutes but cardiac arrest occurred again. And the third time, the same thing happened. But physicians did not give up.

“The situation was so bad that we thought of the worst scenario, giving the bad news to his family. However, we kept struggling,” he recalled.

After 45 minutes of pressure on the heart, the patient gradually improved and physicians thought they saw a light at the end of tunnel.

That night, Phuc and his colleagues spent a sleepless night, checking all documents and analyzing test results, trying to find the reasons behind the cardiac arrest.

Phuc said he often could not sleep when he felt stressed. He did not sleep even though he was not on duty. At some moments, he experienced serious stress, sitting in a corner of the room, raising a lot of questions to himself.

The young physician was only able to escape the stress when the patient became better.

Phuc said he and his colleagues' happiest feeling is knowing that all critically ill Covid patients have been saved at the unit.

However, he understands that the pandemic is still complicated with new virus variants appearing. So he is ready for the next treatment campaign.

Home life

Phuc once stayed at the hospital for two consecutive months when the Department of Intensive Care began receiving patients. After that, he returned home and relaxed before returning to the hospital to continue his work.

For the last year, Phuc has spent more time at hospital than at his home. His wife has to undertake all the work when Phuc is at hospital.

“My daughter is two years old and she often falls sick. My wife alone has to take care of my daughter and I could not do anything to help. I feel guilty about that,” Phuc said.

After graduating from Hanoi Medical University, Phuc passed the exam to become a resident physician majoring in infectious and tropical diseases at the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases and has been working there since.

Phuc said he dreamed of becoming a physician in childhood when he often witnessed his father falling sick. He chose to work in an intensive care unit because of the happiness he feels saving critically ill patients.

“I see patients with multidrug-resistant bacteria or critical AIDS patients with almost no chance of survival. And there are patients refused by other hospitals. But they were still saved here, and I felt very happy,” he said.

“This is what keeps me in this job,” he said.

Phuc said he was surprised when he was honored as one of the 10 outstanding young faces of Hanoi in 2021. He said that all of his colleagues are excellent in research and treatment of patients. 

Nguyen Lien

Young doctor at COVID-19 frontline honoured among Vietnamese outstanding youth

Young doctor at COVID-19 frontline honoured among Vietnamese outstanding youth

At just 32-years-old, Dr Tran Anh Tu is one of the youngest members of a special team of the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control.

Vietnamese doctor develops new surgical method

Vietnamese doctor develops new surgical method

After two weeks of research, Associate Prof. Dr. Nguyen Sinh Hien has successfully developed a new technique for aortic valve repair and replacement.


Ministry listens to firms' difficulties, pledges to raise support

The Ministry of Planning and Investment will propose policies to remove obstacles for enterprises and enable them to seize opportunities to accelerate production and business, Minister Nguyen Chi Dung said.

Vietnam's e-government procurement system set to launch in August

The e-GP would allow effective and transparent management of the public procurement process.


Newly-established businesses in H1 exceed 70,000

Australian Foreign Minister enjoys Pho ga in Hanoi

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong enjoys Hanoi's specialty of Pho ga or chicken noodles as she arrived in the city on her first visit to Vietnam.

Vietnamese ceramic artist sets two Guinness World Records

Two Vietnamese ceramic works will be recognised as having set Guinness World Records at a ceremony in Hanoi today (June 30).


USAID assists Vietnamese businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emission

Vietnam Airlines plans to restore its entire flight network by the end of 2023

The restoration of international flight routes is an important condition for Vietnam Airlines to reduce losses and become profitable in the near future.

Saigon Zoo elephant dung used to make paper

A Saigon Zoo member of staff and a group of students are transforming elephant dung into paper.

Future of Hanoi’s 120-year-old Long Bien Bridge unclear

Long Bien Bridge, the iconic bridge across Hanoi’s Red River, has degraded, but no major repair plan has been finalized and its future is unclear.

Information & Communications Ministry works to create modern digital infrastructure

The Ministry of Information and Communications will exert efforts to create a modern and safe national digital infrastructure, and a new space for digital economic growth, and developing e-government towards the building of a digital government.

Vietnamese NA Chairman begins official visit to UK

National Assembly (NA) Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue arrived at Heathrow Airport in London on June 28 (local time), beginning his three-day official visit to the UK.

Vietnam to establish industrial environmental index

The Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) has called for the implementation of an industrial environmental index in Vietnam, according to Le Thanh Quan, head of MPI's department of economic zone management.

Rising costs cast doubt on wood companies growth prospects

As wood export turnover is rebounding with rising demand in the domestic market, the revenues of wood enterprises are expected to advance.

Vietnam’s GDP expands 7.72% in second quarter of 2022

Vietnam’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of this year was estimated to increase 7.72% year-on-year, higher than the growth rates in the same quarters during the 2011-2021 period.

Danish Crown Prince Couple to visit Vietnam in November

Wind energy and energy efficiency will be in focus during the visit, which will take place on November 1-2.