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Catholics strengthen pandemic front line in Vietnam

Priests, deacons, seminarians and nuns help coronavirus patients deal with pain, loneliness and depression

UCA News reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

UCA News reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

Published: September 21, 2021 08:27 AM GMT

Updated: September 21, 2021 10:12 AM GMT

Catholics strengthen pandemic front line in Vietnam

Volunteers and authorities at a field hospital in Ho Chi Minh City on Sept. 18. (Photo courtesy of tgpsaigon.net)

Priests and religious in Vietnam continue to join frontline healthcare experts and workers in providing support and spiritual care for Covid-19 patients at the government’s urgent request.

Nineteen priests, deacons, seminarians and nuns from six religious orders and societies based in Ho Chi Minh City set off to work at the Tan Binh Field Hospital on Sept 18, following the footsteps of the 544 Catholic and Buddhist religious volunteers who have ministered to local hospitals since late July.

“We voluntarily come here to work with doctors and nurses to care for patients. Doctors offer them medical treatment while we give them spiritual support,” said Father Thomas Aquino Nguyen Duc Khoi, who serves as assistant priest at St. Jeanne d’Arc.

He said they have nothing but love to offer to those infected by the virus. “We look after them as our relatives so that they can recover from the disease and return back to normal life soon,” he added.

Father Khoi regularly visits local hospitals and provides last sacraments to patients.

Deacon Joseph Phan Quoc Khanh, who works in Nam Hoa Parish, said he will try his best to fulfill whatever responsibility he is assigned at the hospital. Helping patients deal with agonizing pain, loneliness and depression is going to be a challenging and grueling task for the volunteers and medical staff, he said.

Volunteers are set to do everything they can to serve patients

St. Joseph Major Seminary has supplied many volunteers to work alongside healthcare staff, he added.

The volunteers’ tireless efforts have earned the appreciation and gratitude of patients and their families.

Phan Thi Thanh Huong, deputy of the city’s Fatherland Front, an umbrella organization of the communist-ruling government, said the volunteers have left patients and medical staff with warm and marvelous feelings.

Catholic religious volunteers have responded to the calls for supporting frontline healthcare workers in the fight against the deadly pandemic, Huong said while adding that this time they will serve over six weeks as the field hospitals were short on staff.

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Father Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu, representing Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese, said volunteers are all set to enter hospitals with their kind and tender hearts. It is necessary for religious volunteers to provide their services for patients during the pandemic.

“Volunteers are set to do everything they can to serve patients,” he said, adding that as long as the hospitals need their help, they will certainly not let their loving apostolic hearts grow cold.

Dr. Ho Huu Duc said Tan Binh Field Hospital, which started on Aug 18, provides medical treatment to 1,000 patients from Tan Binh district. Its intensive treatment unit has 50 beds served by 18 doctors working in four shifts.

Patients will be cared for better when volunteers come to their aid, he said.

Dr. Le Dinh Thanh, head of the hospital, hoped that religious volunteers will help Covid-19 patients overcome their fear. Many do not die of the illness but of fear.

More than 1,500 children have been orphaned by the pandemic

Volunteers were tested for the coronavirus and trained to care for patients and protect themselves in advance. They will stay at Santa Maria Hospital run by a Catholic company during the period they serve.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s Covid-19 epicenter, has 93 health facilities with 64,600 beds for patients. It has recorded 341,699 infections including 13,312 deaths since the first Delta variant cases were detected in May.

More than 1,500 children have been orphaned by the pandemic.

The city has administered 6.8 million vaccine doses among seven million people aged 18 and above, while 2.1 million have been fully vaccinated.

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