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Saturday,  Aug 19,2017,18:21 (GMT+7)

Patients at risk

Son Nguyen
Friday,  Jul 28,2017,22:40 (GMT+7)
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Patients at risk

Son Nguyen

Scores of little boys, some only two months old, have recently contracted human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is more often a sexually-transmitted disease found in adults, and the culprit accused of spreading the disease is a physician in the northern province of Hung Yen. The healthcare crisis, so to say, poses huge questions as to why an epidemic-scale outburst of the disease – which is not easily transmitted if protective measures are taken – can occur, and why State agencies from the Health Ministry to provincial and district-level public health bodies have failed to check it.

As many as 79 children, most of them under two years old, have been rushed to the Hanoi-based Central Dermatology Institute for HPV treatment, according to local media. Up to 71 of them are from Hung Yen Province’s Khoai Chau District, and most of the little boys have been treated for phimosis at a private clinic run by physician Hoang Thi Hien in the district. The upsurge in HPV patients has prompted the Central Dermatology Institute to report to health authorities to demand an investigation.

As the scandal unfolds, it is found that the physician has used tricks to persuade parents to have their babies treated, saying if phimosis is not dealt with, their children may suffer serious diseases including cancer in the later years.

A parent says in Tuoi Tre that when she took her child to Hien’s clinic for a facial skin disease, the physician also checked the child’s penis, and concluded that the boy suffered from phimosis. The little boy after being treated there developed weird symptoms a few weeks later, and the parent later learned that her child has been infected with HPV when taking the child to the Hanoi-based Central Dermatology Institute.

Several other parents also tell the same story, saying the physician has affirmed phimosis with their children, whether they took their kids to the clinic for coughing, flu, or merely a sore throat.

A young father relates in Lao Dong how his six-month-old baby has been infected with HPV after being treated for phimosis at Hien’s clinic, saying the physician has cheated parents, telling them of grave consequences if the children are not quickly treated.

In a joint petition to the Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Public Security, the families of over 70 children suffering from HPV disease in Khoai Chau District all say their children have been examined and treated at the clinic in February and March this year, according to Nguoi Lao Dong. They also accuse Hien of boasting herself as a doctor at a centrally-run hospital, although the medicaster is in fact just a physician at a ward-level clinic in the district.

The physician “has claimed she is a doctor at a famous hospital in Hanoi to cheat parents. When treating phimosis by widening the congenital foreskin for several children at the same time, Hien did not replace a single glove on one of her hands, and used devices from a stray not yet sterilized,” according to the joint petition by parents, who assert that the careless treatment by Hien has spread the disease from one child to another.

As the scandal breaks out, State agencies have stepped in, though it is deemed too late.

This Wednesday, Hung Yen Province’s Health Department issued a decision slapping a fine of VND100 million on the charlatan physician for a slew of violations, according to Nguoi Lao Dong. Hien’s violations are found to include provision of medical checkup and treatment services without a license, illegal sales of medicines, and offering healthcare services beyond her professional capacity. Days earlier, she was already suspended from healthcare services for 15 days while pending further investigation.

However, according to local media, such measures have been taken too late.

On July 13, having noticed abnormal developments among HPV patients from Hung Yen, the Central Dermatology Institute sent an urgent correspondence to relevant healthcare agencies under the Ministry of Health, but Hung Yen’s Health Department did not make a move until July 19 when it dispatched an investigation team to probe the situation, according to Tuoi Tre. By this time, it was almost impossible to establish the cause of the disease since primary evidence such as medical devices at the illegal clinic may have been all erased.

However, what is most regrettable is the dereliction of duty on the part of grassroots healthcare officials. They have failed to detect and prevent an illegal clinic that has been in operation for many long years.

Phan Quang Manh, director of Khoai Chau District’s Healthcare Division, says in Lao Dong that he has learned of the illegal operation of Hien’s clinic for some years, and has summoned her for explanations, but she did not cooperate. “In fact, we learned of this, but it is difficult to tackle… Truly speaking, Mrs. Hien did not cooperate, and refused to declare (the clinic’s operations), so we did not have any ground to take punitive actions,” Manh is quoted as saying in Lao Dong.

In a working session with the Central Dermatology Institute and the Ministry of Health last week, Leu Van Quan, chief inspector of Hung Yen Department of Health, also admitted to the failure to perform assigned duties on the part of Khoai Chau District’s Healthcare Division, saying the half-done effort plus the lack of determination by the division has allowed the clinic to continue operations until now.

Families of the victims have now asked for help from lawyers to take legal actions against the quacksalver physician. Lawyer Le Anh Thom from the Hanoi Bar Association, who represents the victims, says in Nguoi Lao Dong that the deliberate violations by the physician in this case constitute a criminal offense, meaning the fake doctor may have to compensate the victimized families.

The number of 79 little boys infected by HPV may not be the final one, since more children who have been treated with phimosis are being taken to the Central Dermatology Institute these days for examinations.

The culprit behind the risks posed to patients in this scandal has been pinpointed. It is not only the physician who has performed illegal medical services for years, but it is also the lack of competence and dereliction of duty on the part of healthcare officials at State agencies.

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