HCM City Oncology Hospital's new branch overrun within a year of opening

Thousands of cancer patients are awaiting check-ups and treatment at the branch of the HCM City Oncology Hospital in Thủ Đức City, causing a persistent overload at the largest oncology hospital in the south.

Cancer patients wait for checks and treatment at the Thủ Đức branch of the HCM City Oncology Hospital. — VNA/VNS Photo

HCM CITY — Thousands of cancer patients are awaiting check-ups and treatment at the branch of the HCM City Oncology Hospital in Thủ Đức City, causing a persistent overload at the largest oncology hospital in the South.

The 1,000-bed hospital, opened in February last year, gets 4,700-4,800 patients a day and has 950 patients at a time, according to statistics it released.

Around 1,000-1,100 patients undergo radiotherapy or chemotherapy every day.

Nguyễn Mai Hà Vy, 45, arrived at the hospital for radiotherapy at 8am on May 18, but had to wait until afternoon.

Vy has been getting treatment for cervical cancer for the past year.

“I have to wait hours to see the doctor every time I travel to the hospital from Bình Phước Province,” she said.

Nguyễn Thị Quê, 65, travelled through the night from Phú Quý Island off Bình Thuận and arrived at the hospital in the morning, but was told to wait until 2:30pm to get ultrasound.

“I had to spend a night at a rental room nearby to wait for the endoscopy,” she said.

“There is no specialised cancer hospital in my hometown. That is why I have to travel far from home.”

Dr Trần Đặng Ngọc Linh, head of the department of gynaecological radiotherapy, said the 13 radiotherapy machines at the hospital operate at full capacity from early in the morning until 9pm every day, but have yet to meet the demand.

A cancer patient has to wait at least three weeks for radiotherapy, and around 500-600 of them are in the waiting list, she said.

In 2023, nearly 800,000 patients visited the hospital for examination, and doctors performed nearly 37,000 surgeries and more than 180,000 people received radiotherapy.

Nearly 300,000 patients were treated with internal medicine.

A patient gets radiotherapy at the branch of the HCM City Oncology Hospital in Thủ Đức City, which is severely overloaded within a year since being opened. — VNA/VNS Photo

Dr Diệp Bảo Tuấn, deputy director of the hospital, said the number of cancer patients visiting the hospital has increased steadily over the years.

More than 80 per cent of patients admitted to the hospital come from other cities and provinces, resulting in a severe overload, he said.

As some cancers are likely to be managed routinely and many patients live long with cancer due to improved treatment, the number of patients has increased over the years, he said.

The hospital has taken a number of measures to reduce its load, including booking appointments online and extending the working hours from 4:30am to 10pm.

It has speeded up technology transfer and training for hospitals in Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta, southeastern region and Central Highlands to enhance their treatment capacity.

Dr Lê Tuấn Anh, director of Chợ Rẫy Hospital’s oncology centre, said the patient overload affects the quality of treatment.

It is necessary to set up cancer treatment centres at other cities and provinces to prevent patients from travelling to HCM City for treatment, he said.

Around 345,000 people live with cancer in Việt Nam.

The most common are cancers of the breast, liver and lung, according to the Ministry of Health.

With around 180,000 new cancer cases and 120,000 deaths each year, Việt Nam is among the countries with a moderate cancer rate but high mortality rate, according to the Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN) statistics for 2022. — VNS

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