Ho Chi Minh City’s leading public hospital opened an organ transplant coordination unit to fairly distribute and expand the country’s severely limited bank of organs.
Dr. Du Thi Ngoc Thu, the new head of the Cho Ray Hospital unit, said their job is to receive organ donations and distribute them to patients in need.
The system must be fair, he stressed, and avoid any profit incentives.
The unit has distributed leaflets to families of the hospital’s patients and the public at large to encourage organ donation, Thu said.
Thu said Vietnam’s hospitals have been improving their organ transplant techniques, but have had little work to do since donations remain “modest.”
Vietnam's hospitals started performing organ transplants in 1992 and have helped around 1,000 patients, although some 6,000 patients remain in need, she said.
Cho Ray performed 400 of those transplants.
Around 1,500 patients are currently awaiting new livers, but only 46 have received one.
Heart transplants have been performed on 11 patients; only one pancreatic transplant has been completed, she said.
Dr. Tran Ngoc Sinh, a urologist and consultant at Cho Ray, said poor donation remains Vietnam's biggest obstacle to saving patients in need of donations.
Sinh said current donations come mostly from the families of patients who can only donate portions of their livers or kidneys.
The country really needs donations from recently dead patients, he said.
Around five patients succumb to brain death or cardiac arrest at the hospital, every day, mostly due to traffic accidents.
But the hospital has only received donations from seven brain-dead patients since 2008, which were used to save 13 others.
A brain-dead donor can save up to seven people with their kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and pancreas, doctors said.
Several public hospitals in the country allow people to sign up to donate their bodies to science when they die.
Those donors' families are invited to attend a funeral several years later, whenever the bodies are done serving their medical functions and can be cremated.
Doctors said the lack of donors has fueled the illegal organ trade that targets the poor.