The aim of the tour was to make a number of professional visits in Vietnam to gain an understanding of palliative care, which is in its infancy in the country, as well as cultural visits to better understand the county’s history. As Charlotte explains: “Arguably, one needs to understand medical care and specifically palliative care in the cultural context so immersion in the local culture is an important part of this understanding.”
In the article, Charlotte gives a vivid description of Hanoi, in the north of Vietnam, before going on to talk about the state of healthcare and palliative care.
The group visited the main hospital in Hanoi, which has up to two thousand inpatients at any given time, where they saw a number of wards and talked about the National Palliative Care Strategy.
Charlotte describes the lack of privacy for patients, with an average of two people sharing narrow beds in crowded wards, and the lack of drugs.
Only limited doctors can prescribe morphine and they have to be specifically trained in palliative care. Morphine is manufactured by the Vietnamese Pharmaceutical Company for a much cheaper price than in the West but supplies of other drugs commonly used in western nations in palliative care are still expensive and limited.
Work has started on the provision of postgraduate training to doctors in palliative care and oncology doctors are required to have palliative care certificates. Training for senior nurses from various departments within the hospital in palliative care is due to commence in March 2013.
Charlotte comments that “it was difficult to get a clear picture of how very limited resources are allocated with support for patients from rural areas particularly challenging.”