Stroke is the leading cause of death in Vietnam, according to 2017 data. One hospital in Ho Chi Minh City is helping to increase access to stroke and heart attack treatment with a network of satellite emergency stations.

Dr Trương Vĩnh Long, CEO of Gia An 115 Hospital and Healthcare Managing Director of Hoa Lam Corporation, tells Hospital Insider how the hospital has advanced services for strokes and heart attacks, some of which are automated. “We try to expand this satellite emergency station to receive all patients with strokes or heart attacks.”

The hospital, which is in its first year of operation, is also a hub for stroke and heart attack treatment. “Patients in the region, when they have any problem regarding strokes, brain strokes and heart attacks, we have a professional team to transfer them to our hospital for evaluation,” Dr Long adds.

The hospital has invested in software that allows doctors to identify unaffected brain tissue in stroke patients. “If we don’t have the software, we cannot evaluate the brain tissue directly,” Dr Long explains. Such software is relatively new to the Southeast Asia region, he says.

It is important to act within the critical time window just after the stroke happens – up to six hours, he notes. This is the best time for interventions such as stents, which are tiny balloons that a surgeon inserts into the patient’s clogged artery to widen it and ease blood flow to the brain.

Key priorities

As with many other countries all over the world, Vietnam faces a lack of quality healthcare personnel. There are few medical universities in Vietnam, and spots for aspiring medical students are scarce, says Dr Long. The government controls and limits the number of enrollments. To tackle this, Dr Long says, “We have to do collaborations, and also, we have strengthened international cooperation with America, Germany, even Singapore hospitals.”

Gia An 115 Hospital is a pioneer in the public-private partnership model in Vietnam. It was the first hospital to open as part of a partnership with People’s Hospital 115, one of the biggest public hospitals in the city. This partnership aims to tackle patient overload in public hospitals, while improving the quality of healthcare services, reported Vietnam Economic Times.

Dr Long has three clear priorities for his hospital: international accreditation; improving quality of services and patient safety; and boosting medical tourism, he says. By end 2020, the hospital hopes to get JCI accreditation. “We have a plan to prepare everything for the JCI survey,” says Dr Long.

The hospital is applying processes in all departments to improve safety and quality, he continues. At the same time, it is building a culture of openness so that staff feel comfortable sharing their problems with the management. This way, “they have to listen from their staff on how can they enhance the safety issues for the patients.”

And Dr Long believes that healthcare providers can “attract the patients from around Vietnam to come to Vietnam for diagnostic treatment” if they continue to introduce advanced treatments – for instance, precision medicine. In Gia An 115, he is planning to establish a comprehensive oncology centre, both to expand the hospital’s suite of services but also to attract patients from elsewhere.

Dr Long concludes with some advice for other hospital leaders in Vietnam: “We have to train the hospital leaders and managers in hospital management”. Most may be medical doctors that might not necessarily possess business knowhow, he points out. “They don’t have the knowledge in the quality, management or finance.” The right skills will help them shine as the hospital leaders of tomorrow.

Dr Long will be speaking at Hospital Management Asia on 11-12 September in Hanoi.