Last week I had the opportunity to do some field work in Saigon. The goal of our visit was to learn firsthand from several private providers and pharmacies about TB treatment. You may recall from a previous post that approx. 40-60% of TB patients seek initial treatment from a local pharmacy. This is understandable as the common symptoms of TB are persistent cough, fever, night sweats. So the path of least resistance is self medication by buying some antibiotics and cough medicine from the local pharmacy. From our visit it was clear this is a community issue, if not treated properly TB can be easily spread in the community and become resistant to standard antibiotics.
During my visit I was hosted by Luan Vo, the CEO of Friends of International Tuberculosis Relief and his local Proper Care team of counselors. Pictured above.
Proper Care is a unique team of medical professionals located in Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Side bar: Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam with over 10 million people located in the South. Saigon was the focus of much of the Vietnam War, after the fall of Saigon which ended the war in 1975 they renamed Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City. However, most people still prefer to refer to the city as Saigon.
The Proper Care project currently has 12 employees including 11 counselors and 1 team manager fighting the war on TB in Saigon. The core goals of the project are to increase new case detections and minimize losses to follow-up. The team’s activities are based on three main strategies:
- Patient advocacy
- Case detection
- Holistic engagement of public and private TB care stakeholders and comprehensive care for patients and their families.
The team works in a community of about 650,000 of whom almost half are internal migrants. They work with a network of approximately 50 private clinics and 200 pharmacies. Overall in 2015, they have reached out to 61,501 households with 269,244 people to ask about TB symptoms. The counselors are like TB detectives, they ensure TB positive patients get the Proper Care, they educate family and friends of people with TB on how to prevent TB. They convince patients showing TB-related symptoms to get tested free of charge. Through their efforts the case load of patients managed has risen from 157 at the start of our operations to 452 at the end of the year. It is our goal to align our resources at CHAI to compliment the local efforts accomplished by the Proper Care team.
During my visit my host Luan was kind enough to give me a grand tour of the City, treating me to lunch at his favorite restaurant followed by a drive by the sites including the neighborhood where he was born during the war, of which his family still lives in the same house. All from the back of his motorbike…..that’s the way you get around here.
Here are a few photo’s from my trip.
This is a building that was used as a roof top evacuation point of citizens during the final days of the war. Obviously, there is now a big sky scraper built behind it.
Cu Chi tunnels the Viet Con had a very elaborate underground tunnel system to hide and live in. In total there is approx. 120 miles of tunnels. Pictured above is a one of the entrances and a pop-up that they would use to surprise the US troop or to quickly escape back into the tunnel. Tight squeeze!
People’s Committee Building……
The Notre-Dame Basilica in the center of town.
This was a very productive trip and we plan to return as we partner with the Ministry of Health and the Proper Care team…..