A senior pediatrician in Ho Chi Minh City has closed his clinic after 25 years to offer free counseling to parents on his Facebook fanpage.
Dr Truong Huu Khanh, head of the infectious and neurological diseases department at the city’s Children’s Hospital No.1, set up “Hoi bac si nhi dong” (Ask the pediatrician) last month to reply to questions and provide advice and explanations regarding children’s health.
He typically gets asked if parents need to worry if their children do not grow teeth by six months or should force a child to take their first steps at 10 months.
He offers guidance on when a child needs to go to hospital for examinations and what parts need to be checked.
Khanh, who is in his early 50s, said he had been obsessed with the idea for three years after knowing that hospitals are usually overcrowded and parents usually return home with many questions unanswered.
“Doctors cannot afford the time during working hours to explain in detail about a disease or how to take care of the child.”
He wants to help parents understand when they need to take their child to hospital.
“Some parents are so worried they carry their child even hundreds of kilometers to a hospital when it’s not necessary.
“Also, some parents think their children do not need hospitalization though they need it urgently.”
Most of the questions so far have come from mothers of babies under one year old, mostly about vaccinations and respiratory and digestion problems, he said.
Though he usually answers off the top of his head, sometimes he has to do some research before answering.
He wants his answers to be informative as well as ease people’s anxiety.
“I never mention a name or add the image of any products or medicines.”
I help people through social media since many still live in places that have the Internet but no hospitals or doctors’ -- Doctor Truong Huu Khanh
The doctor, who heads a team of 60 doctors and nurses that treats 200 inpatients at the hospital, had planned to earmark one hour a day for his Facebook clinic, but it takes him two to three hours.
His clinic was at his home in Hoc Mon District on the city’s outskirts.
He opened it after graduating from medicine school when there were no hospitals or clinics there and children had to travel a long way to hospitals in the city center.
“Now there are many pediatricians in the area, so my closure won’t matter.
“I help people through social media since many still live in places that have the Internet but no hospitals or doctors.”
Khanh was popular long before reaching out to his patients via Facebook.
He has been a popular source of information for the media because of his willingness to talk frankly.
“My point is we should provide true and adequate information about a disease so that people can take preventive steps.”
Confusion can cause public panic, the doctor, who is an expert in diseases like measles, rubella, hand, food and mouth disease, influenza A, and meningitis, said.