Vietnamese doctor leads a simple life to save lives

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In an old room hidden in a corner of Lam Dong General Hospital 2, Doctor Huynh Van Thien works at an old table, a shabby file cabinet and an old dial cradle phone.

"For a doctor, a working room is much less important than what he does to save lives," the 55-year-old says.

It is in this room that Thien has hatched a number of innovative ideas that have drastically improved the hospital's services since he was appointed director five years ago.

Early this month, the Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung granted Thien the Chien si thi dua award an honorary government title for outstanding individuals.

Born in the central city of Da Nang, Thien graduated from the Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacology in 1982 and was assigned to work at the Bao Loc District Hospital in Lam Dong Province.

At that time, newly-graduated doctors had to work in remote and rural areas for two years before being eligible to apply for jobs at the hospitals of their choice.

But Thien said he has remained in the Central Highlands province for the past 30 years because he wants to keep improving operations here.

"A foreign doctor who visited the hospital to donate medical equipment praised our efforts," he said, adding that the hospital staff of 74 doctors have offered examination and treatment for more than 220,000 patients a year, including 6,000 surgeries.

Since becoming hospital director in 2007, Thien decided to invest in more modern equipment for the hospital via his "socialization" plan.

Under the plan, hospital employees are encouraged to contribute up to half the value of new equipment, with the remaining value paid by the hospital's social welfare fund. The employees then get a part of the revenue generated by use of the equipment.

"Under this plan, every employee at the hospital, from janitors and guards to the director, will benefit, while the patients are also able to use modern equipment," Thien said.

Earlier, the hospital had to hire equipment from medical equipment firms.

Now, the hospital is well-equipped with renal dialysis machines, digestive endoscopy machines, CT scanners, digital X-ray machines and 4D color ultrasound scanners.

Problem solver

Thien arrives at the hospital early every morning on his 1967 Honda. His breakfast is half a pack of instant noodles and he is ready for a new day of work.

Some of the challenges he faces each day are medical, while many others are administrative.

Last year, some newspapers reported that doctors at the hospital's Obstetrics Ward were receiving bribes. Thien intended to meet the reporters to ask for the names of the involved doctors and nurses for punishment.

However, on second thought, he realized that would not be the best way to end bribery. He chose another way that has successfully ended bribery at the ward: installing cameras and moving some accused doctors and nurses to other wards.

Apart from ending corruption, Thien has worked to improve his staff's knowledge of both English and professional skills by inviting foreign experts to hold regular training sessions at the hospital every two or three months.

The director rewards doctors and medical workers who complete learning courses outside of work, whether those courses are English or other subjects.

Thien was lucky to be able to study in the Neitherlands in 1995 with the help of Dutch Professor H.P. Sauerwein, who found funding for Thien's studies.

In 2004, Thien successfully defended his doctoral thesis, which proposed new preventative measures to be taken against malaria.

His findings have been applied widely in Vietnam and many other countries to treat malaria. His methods have proven simple but effective in reducing fatalities among malaria patients.

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