Vietnamese health officials were scrambling for answers on Tuesday after seven people died while receiving dialysis, as survivors recounted horror stories from the country’s worst medical disaster in recent years.
Eleven people are being treated after the incident, including one in critical condition. “I would like to apologise to families and the whole community, we are very surprised at this rare incident,” said Truong Quy Duong, director of Hoa Binh Province General Hospital where the incident took place on Monday, according to a clip on state media.
All medical equipment and drugs in the kidney care department have been sealed off at the state-run hospital and both police and Health Ministry officials said on Tuesday a criminal investigation had been launched. School teacher Nguyen Thi Bich Nguyen went in for the routine procedure before things went awry.
“She became itchy all over her body, she had a stomach ache and vomited,” her husband Le Tien Dung told AFP while waiting anxiously at the hospital, where police guarded the intensive care unit.
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Nguyen, 47, remains in critical condition, after another patient in critical care died overnight. “My biggest hope is that my wife will overcome this,” Dung said. Officials said 10 survivors have been transferred to a hospital in Hanoi, and Hoa Binh Province General Hospital said it would no longer receive kidney patients while the investigation is underway.
The hospital, about 80 kilometres west of Hanoi, was packed with ailing patients waiting to be moved on Tuesday, shaken by the news. “The remaining patients were really lucky... all of them were in shock,” said Quang, whose cousin had come for dialysis before the treatments were called off yesterday.
A doctor who cared for the patients overnight recalled a “nightmare” as he struggled to keep the victims alive. “It’s a huge loss. I feel pain as if I had lost members of my own family,” said doctor Hoang Cong Tinh.
Relatives of the seven victims have been paid USD 660, officials said earlier. Hospitals in Vietnam are both privately-owned and state-run, though government facilities tend to have lower quality of care, especially in rural areas.
Medical complications in hospitals are frequently reported in Vietnam, often involving one or two victims. In December, a seven-year-old girl died in southern Ca Mau province after being injected with antibiotics to treat a respiratory ailment. That same month, two patients were killed after receiving anaesthesia in a private hospital in Hanoi.
About six million people suffer from kidney disease in the country of 93 million, according to figures on the Health Ministry’s official online mouthpiece.