Maternity hospitals throughout Vietnam have run out of a drug needed to prevent severe birth complications among mothers with a rare blood type.
A father-to-be, identified only as T.M.H. of Ho Chi Minh City recently told Tuoi Tre that he could not find the drug his pregnant wife needed at major maternity hospitals like Tu Du, Hung Vuong or Mekong, as well as the luxurious FV Hospital.
H. also contacted the Central Obstetrics Hospital in Hanoi to no avail.
His wife’s blood test came up Rh negative when she was 28 months pregnant.
The condition meant that her body could begin attacking her baby's red blood cells, resulting in anemia, brain damage or death.
Doctors at Hung Vuong hospital prescribed her injections of immunoglobulin only to realize they lacked the medicine.
The same story was repeated at every hospital H. contacted; no one knew when they'd get a refill.
Mother vs. child
Dr Le Van Hien, deputy director in charge of professional issues at Mekong hospital, said a Rh-negative mother who is not injected with proper immunoglobulin shots will continue to suffer miscarriages or stillbirths in later pregnancies.
A baby is born at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
Hien said a Rh-Negative mother's attacks on her fetus could potentially kill the mother herself.
He said such women require three immunoglobulin shots throughout the course of their pregnancy.
Dr Le Thi Thu Ha, head of the post-delivery department at Tu Du Hospital, said the condition is rare and only affects around 0.04 percent of Vietnamese people.
Immunoglobulin is imported from Western countries at a rather high prices.
“Ho Chi Minh City suffers a scarcity of immunoglobulin,” Dr. Ha said.
Nguyen Van Truong, director of Hung Vuong, told Tuoi Tre his hospital has been out of the agent for several months.
Truong said he has contacted the HCMC medical import and export company Yteco for more but has yet to receive further supply.
Huynh Thi Thanh Thuy, director of Tu Du, said her hospital sent Yteco a similar request last June.
Bottleneck of red tape
A representative from Yteco confirmed that they'd received the orders and dozens of alarmed phone calls from the patients and their families.
The city Health Department once assigned Yteco to import the drug based on a reasonable estimation of demand.
But starting this year, the ministry’s Drug Management Department labeled the drug as a biological product that needs to be tested before it is released and required Yteco to request permission for each importation of the drug.
The representitive said they plan to import a small quantity of the drug for testing before requesting a larger amount.