Alive & Thrive is delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) and providing newborn care services to help 30 hospitals in Viet Nam cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases that began in July. The Embassy of Ireland is funding the initiative.
“The recent surge in COVID-19 cases is receding, but hospitals continue to need PPE and technical assistance on the new COVID-19 treatment guidance for pregnant women and infants,” said Linh Phan, regional associate director of Alive & Thrive’s Southeast Asia office. “We are pleased to provide this support thanks to the generous support of the Embassy of Ireland.”
“The Government of Ireland is glad to help the people of Viet Nam during this challenging time,” said Ireland’s Ambassador, John McCullagh. “COVID-19 has had a severe impact on health systems around the world and with this support from the Embassy of Ireland, we can help to ensure adequate safety at hospitals for frontline healthcare workers and patients. This is a meaningful way to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Ireland”
The COVID-19 surge led to an average of 10,000 daily new infections in August and September – peak daily cases reached 17,000 – overwhelming health centers and leaving families without sufficient equipment and maternal and newborn care services. Now in mid-November, 7,000 to 8,000 daily new infections are being reported. But hospitals had depleted their supplies of PPE and needed support to ensure health workers understood and followed new guidance on COVID-19 treatment for pregnant women and infants issued by the Government of Viet Nam in August that allows direct breastfeeding, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and rooming-in.
“Many people feared that mothers infected with coronavirus would pass it on to their newborns – the guidance adopted at the beginning of the pandemic called for newborns to be separated from their mothers if the mothers had tested positive for coronavirus,” Phan explained. “But research confirms that indeed it is far more beneficial to keep the newborn with mother, and initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, according to international recommendations.”
At Phu Vang Hospital in Hue Province, the head of the obstetrics and gynecology department said the PPE delivery was well timed.
“Phu Vang Hospital is responsible for supervising two concentrated isolation areas, with 1,000 people each,” said Dr. Tin Nguyen, head of the department. “One area has recently been transitioned to become a COVID-19 treatment site for asymptomatic patients. The hospital has been receiving PPEs from the provincial CDC, but as the pandemic is soaring in Hue, with around 70 new cases a day, the isolation areas are getting busier and demand for protective gear has increased while stock runs low. The support package comes at the right time to ease the burden.”
The full procurement includes personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and support for breastfeeding, including job aids for health staff, human milk containers, refrigerators, and free pasteurized donor human milk for newborns in COVID-19 treatment hospitals.
The technical assistance includes coaching for hospitals on the updated treatment guidance and monitoring and supportive supervision to ensure uptake of the guidance.
Read the press release.