Violence prone

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Emergency rooms in HCMC hospitals are witnessing a massive increase in the number of people wounded in intoxicated brawls


Patients being treated at the emergency ward of Ho Chi Minh City's Cho Ray Hospital. Doctors say there has been an alarming increase in cases of people wounded in fights being admitted to the hospitals.

Looks matter.

Especially when you are in "high spirits."

Chinh was admitted to Cho Ray Hospital last month for treatment for head injuries he suffered in a fight with others at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City's Binh Chanh District.

The 26-year-old employee of a shoemaking factory and his friends were drinking at a restaurant when they got into a fight with customers at another table.

The cause of the fight was an unfriendly look that someone at one table allegedly cast at the next table.

Chinh's friend, who took him to the hospital, also suffered minor head injuries and came in with a bloodied shirt.

Doctors in HCMC have reported an alarming increase of similar cases patients brought into the emergency rooms, wounded in incidents involving people who were drunk.

The drastic increase in such cases at all major hospitals in the city has prompted a doctor to carry out a survey on the issue.

Dr. Nguyen Van Su of the Gia Dinh People's Hospital said he has been surveying wounded cases brought to the hospital's emergency ward over the first six months of this year.

The study, expected to be completed next month, will look into the link between the cases of people who are wounded and hospitalized and the influence of addictive substances like alcohol and drugs.

Dr. Truong The Hiep, deputy head of Cho Ray Hospital's Emergency Ward, said it was "painful" to see and treat a number of cases where people have used violence to resolve conflicts, sometimes for utterly nonsensical reasons.

"In social relations, conflicts among people are inevitable. However, many people are not opting to solve them peacefully through negotiations but resort to the use of fists, knives and clubs," he said.

Many doctors blame these spontaneous fights on abuse of alcohol.

"Hospitalized cases of wounded patients are very common. There are dozens of cases every day. Most cases involve alcohol abuse that makes people lose control over their behavior," Dr. Tran Thanh Du of the Gia Dinh People's Hospital told Thanh Nien in a brief interview at the hospital on the night of November 6.

The talk was disrupted midway when the hospital's emergency ward admitted a patient who wanted to be known only as H.

Pressing his hand against a bleeding injury in his head, the 25-year-old man said he was drinking at a restaurant on Binh Thanh District's No Trang Long Street when some dispute broke out between them and the restaurant's employees over tips.

"A fight quickly broke out and I suffered an injury in the head," he said.

Doctors under threat

Under the influence of alcohol, several patients have taken to threatening bodily harm to doctors and nurses when they are admitted for treatment.

On October 11, a man took Vo Ngoc Tuan to the 115 People's Hospital in District 10 after he was injured in a fight.

The duo attacked the hospital's security officials and broke the gate after they were asked to enter the hospital through another entrance that is kept open at night.

Several security officials were mobilized to the place and they took 22-year-old Tuan to the emergency ward for treatment of his injuries.

After Tuan received emergency aid, he suddenly took out his belt and attacked the doctor who treated him. The doctor suffered minor injuries but remained on duty to treat other serious cases that night.

A subsequent blood test found alcohol content at 130 milligrams per deciliter. The legal threshold of blood alcohol content (BAC) in Vietnam is under 50mg/100ml or breath alcohol content (BrAC) of under 0.25mg/l for motorbikes and zero for car drivers.

 "I have got used to being attacked and insulted by patients and their relatives. I have to stay calm to offer emergency treatment to many others," said the doctor, who wanted to be known only as T.

In another incident at the same hospital, a patient walked into the emergency ward alone on October 5 wearing no shirt in a seriously drunk condition. He had minor injuries on his arms.

When he was questioned by a security official, he used foul language and threatened to beat up the man before entering the emergency room.

Similar incidents are not uncommon at other hospitals.

On November 13, a drunk man was carried into Thu Duc General Hospital by a xe om (motorbike taxi) driver with wounds on his shoulder and arms. The driver quickly left the hospital after dropping off the injured man, who sat on a bed, groaning and refusing to do anything.

Doctors had to struggle to persuade the patient to take an X-ray.

Dr. Pham Van Khiem of the Cho Ray Hospital said many people who are otherwise gentle become very aggressive under the influence of alcohol.

"Eighty percent of emergency cases at the hospital are related to alcohol abuse," he said.

Dr. Ngoc Quynh of Thu Duc Hospital said the hospital staff was horrified more than a month ago when a wounded patient admitted to the hospital belonged to a local gang.

"There was a fight between two gangs. One of the victims was admitted as members of the other gang chased him to the hospital. Two security officials and a medical worker were attacked when they tried to block others from entering the hospital," she said.

Duong Dinh Hoa, a nurse at the Gia Dinh Hospital, said 10 years ago, it was very rare to see a person wounded in a fight admitted to the hospital.

"Fights from personal conflicts have arisen to alarming levels. This will have serious consequences to human health and the society. Many people will think that violence is a normal way to deal with conflicts," he said.

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