Tumor hospitals struggling to reduce patient overload

Currently, the most modern cancer treatment centers in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi are crowded with patients; therefore, hospitals are struggling to reduce patient overload.

Tumor hospitals struggling to reduce patient overload

According to data from the Global Cancer Organization - GLOBOCAN 2022, Vietnam has about 180,000 new cases of cancer and 120,000 cancer-related deaths each year.

At 2:30 a.m., Ms. Nguyen Thi Ut in Ninh Thuan Province and her daughter took a passenger bus to Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital Facility 2 in Thu Duc City. A few hours later, the hospital opened its gates, and the two joined the stream of patients waiting in line to get their numbers. The mother revealed her 19-year-old daughter has sarcoma of the left groin and thigh - a type of malignant cancer with metastasis to the lungs.

After surgery to amputate one leg, her daughter must undergo continued chemotherapy; therefore, they have to travel between Ninh Thuan Province and Ho Chi Minh City for nearly a year. Today, the infirmary was crowded with patients, but her daughter was given priority to see doctors first because she is a disabled patient.

Overcrowding is seen every day in Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital - the largest oncology hospital in the South. Every day, this facility receives about 4,800 patients who come for examinations including 900 inpatients and 1,000 outpatients. Pressure is higher and higher, and although doctors work relentlessly, they hardly meet patients' increased demand.

Meanwhile, in Hanoi, K Hospital has three facilities to examine and treat cancer patients, with over 2,400 beds, but it also suffers overload at times. Professor Le Van Quang, the hospital's director, said that according to statistics in 2023, the number of examinations at the hospital increased by 34 percent compared to 2022, equivalent to about 450,000 patients. The hospital only has 6 radiotherapy machines, and each year there are over 17,000 patients needing radiotherapy, so the machines have to operate late at night.

The hospital has applied many new and high techniques in diagnosis and treatment. However, with the current increase in patients, world-class modern equipment cannot meet the needs. Furthermore, cancer patients often prefer to go to big hospitals causing overload for these hospitals, Professor Le Van Quang said.

Elsewhere in Hanoi, the Oncology Hospital with 615 beds is not enough for patients. To meet the needs of patients, this hospital is preparing to build a second facility in Quoc Oai District.

According to GLOBOCAN 2022, Vietnam has about 180,000 new cases of and 120,000 cancer-related deaths yearly. The death rate from cancer is high compared to other countries in the Southeast Asian region because over 70 percent of cases are diagnosed at a late stage.

Head of Thu Duc Hospital’s Oncology Department Nguyen Trieu Vu said that the increase in cancer patients in Vietnam had been warned. He explained population explosion and population aging are considered the main causes leading to a real burden for countries around the world, including Vietnam, said Dr. Nguyen Trieu Vu.

Data from the General Statistics Office of Vietnam shows that in 2023, the country's population reached 100.3 million with an average life expectancy of people of 73.7 years. In particular, the life expectancy for men was 71.1 years and for women was 76.5 years.

In comparison to other Southeast Asian countries, Vietnamese people's life expectancy is quite high, but on average, each person spends ten years with chronic illness and disability. The older a person is, the greater they get cancer, said Dr. Nguyen Trieu Vu.

According to Dr. Nguyen Trieu Vu’s explanation, the aging process makes the cell's reproductive mechanisms less effective, increasing the likelihood of cancer development. Besides, older people have more time to be exposed to factors such as UV rays, radiation, cigarette smoke, and chemicals so their risk of getting cancer is higher.

Experts commented that nowadays medicine is very developed, the means of diagnosing cancer are quite effective and people are more interested in health care. Therefore, many people detect cancer at an early stage through regular health checks and screenings, leading to the number of new cases increasing every year.

Professor Nguyen Chan Hung, former President of Vietnam Cancer Association, commented that countries in the world are also facing an increase in cancer cases. An aging population, polluted environment, habits of alcohol and tobacco abuse, and irregular eating and drinking habits are attributable to the cause of the disease.

Cancer patients have to wait 4-6 weeks for radiotherapy

On average, every day, 550 patients undergo chemotherapy and 780 others undergo radiation treatments at Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital facility 2. Even though the hospital has the most radiotherapy machines in Vietnam (13 accelerators), patients still have to wait 4-6 weeks for their turn for radiotherapy, and patients have to wait about 3 weeks for surgeries.

VND5,800 billion Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital Facility 2 was built with a helicopter landing pad - the most modern cancer treatment center in the South - with many specialized techniques in diagnosis and treatment. In 2023, Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital received nearly 800,000 patients and performed around 37,000 surgeries plus more than 180,000 radiation treatments, and nearly 300,000 medical treatments.

According to Dr. Le Tuan Anh, Director of Cho Ray Hospital’s Oncology Center, patients come to Ho Chi Minh City for examination and treatment because they want to be treated at a place with the best expertise, leading to overload. Overcrowding hospitals will negatively affect the quality of cancer treatment.

Therefore, it is necessary to consider strengthening cancer treatment establishments in provinces and cities to help fight pressure at hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City. He warned cancer treatment would be more difficult in about 10 years later without an early solution for the problem.

Deputy Director of Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health Nguyen Anh Dung also assessed that up to now cancer is still a dangerous disease, with a high risk of death, patients spend muc. It is necessary to invest in modern equipment, increase treatment efficiency, and improve the skills of doctors and nurses to prevent and repel cancer.

Three most common types of cancer are breast, liver and lung cancer

According to the World Health Organization, after the Covid-19 pandemic, the world faces a pandemic of non-communicable diseases (cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It is estimated that each year in Vietnam, the number of deaths due to non-communicable diseases accounts for 77 percent of the total deaths from all causes.

According to the Ministry of Health, about 345,000 Vietnamese people are living with cancer. Currently, the three most common types of cancer are breast, liver and lung cancer and the top three types of cancer that cause death are liver, lung and stomach cancer. The American Cancer Society predicts that by 2050, the number of cancer cases globally could reach 35 million.

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