HFMD disease: a dilemma for health authorities

The hand-foot-mouth disease has become something of a nightmare for parents, with the toll having risen to 38,000 affected cases and 87 fatalities in 60 provinces and cities across the country. Though health authorities are struggling to contain the disease, they are facing many obstacles in treating patients.

An elderly grandmother arriving in a city hospital from Binh Tan district in Ho Chi Minh City was in a dilemma as the hospital asked an  advance fee of VND40 million because doctors said her grandchild needed intravenous Gamma Globulin drug, a red blood cell extract for treatment of HFMD. One single jar of intravenous Gamma Globulin drug costs VND4.5 million and every hand-foot-mouth patient needs a minimum of 10 jars for treatment.

Dr. Nguyen Thanh Hung, deputy head of Children Hospital No.1 in HCMC, assures that the insurance company covers all hospital fees for children below six years of age. Accordingly, relatives of child patients are all asked to present insurance cards or birth certificates of the child within 24 hours.

Hung stressed that medical workers should provide treatment to children immediately on arrival to a hospital and go through the formalities of paper work and payments later.

Luu Thi Thanh Huyen, head of the Insurance Company in HCMC, said that there is no need to pay hospital fees in advance but to show only birth certificates or insurance cards upon arrival with a patient to a hospital.

Although the disease is spreading like wild fire in Vietnam, no province has yet announced an HFMD epidemic. Pham Viet Thanh, director of the Department of Health in HCMC, the city most affected by the disease, said despite the high numbers of affected patients this year, medical workers are in control of the disease and can identify the virus that causes the disease.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization authorities spoke with a Sai Gon Giai Phong journalist, explaining that a nation can declare a disease epidemic when there is a remarkable increase in the number of affected patients as compared to previous years.

Last three successive years of 2008, 2009, 2010, Vietnam reported over 10,000 cases of hand-foot-mouth disease. However in the first seven months of 2011, Vietnam has reported more than 38,000 cases and can therefore declare a disease epidemic.

Eight provinces and cities that have been most affected by HFMD include Hanoi, the northern province of Thanh Hoa, Ho Chi Minh City, southern provinces of Dong Nai, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Binh Duong, Tien Giang and Ben Tre.

At a meeting held to review the socio-economic conditions of the city in August and the first eight months of the year, an official from the city Department of Health said that there was a distinctive slowdown in the number of HFMD cases and health workers are in control of the disease.

All the same he frets the disease can re-occur in September when students start their new academic year, mainly in the unhygienic residential blocks where migrants dwell and in private pre-schools.

HCMC People’s Committee Chairman Le Hoang Quan has ordered the health department and relevant agencies to keep a tight control on the disease and continue to step up preventive measures.

By staff writers - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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