Left, Right, Left, Right… March

It has been a couple of crazy, busy days here in
Hanoi. Monday started with a meeting with Toan, the Director of VNAH (Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped). He gave us our marching orders – convince the Ministry of Health to expand OT and SLP services to benefit millions of Vietnamese people over millions of years. And, in reality we learned that this is a complicated, difficult process.

Following our meeting, we were taken to visit the National Pediatrics Hospital, National Rehabilitation Centre and National Geriatric Hospital. Not 50 steps into our first stop, the 1800 bed National Pediatric Hospital, I turned to Dee and said that my mind was blown. There was such a mass of humanity in the place. I couldn’t even think of a comparator. The next morning Dee said that it was like Union Station at rush hour and that’s probably the best comparator we can think of. There were people everywhere… when the elevator arrived, a wall of humanity pressed forward. Invariably, someone got stuck in the doors and either squashed in or popped out. Then, like a swarm of bees, they would move to the next elevator.

At each hospital the head of the Rehabilitation Department would meet us and tour us around. We were impressed by how kind and dedicated all the staff were. Rehab services remain so limited in this country. Each doctor would explain their concerns and ask for any help we could offer. For example, the 1800 bed pediatric hospital has a staff of 2 OTs and 2 SLPs. They run 100 patients through the clinic per week, seeing about 8 to 10 patients per staff per day. The government has only approved a few services per discipline. For example at one hospital there were only 3 approved SLP “techniques“ and 5 approved “techniques” for OT. A speech technique might be practising swallowing and an OT technique practising fine motor skills.

The Head Doctor at the Geriatric Hospital said she was thrilled to have international rehabilitation experts from McMaster University providing assistance and I thought it was odd that I wasn’t aware another Mac OT staff was coming over. Dee had to point out to me that she meant us! That stunned me into silence.

Just to make you all feel better about our hospitals, the geriatric hospital had 18 patients (and family) all sleeping in 1 room and this was both men and women all happily snoring away…

At the National Geriatric Hospital – head doctor second from left. Her daughter is studying at McGill. She is with two international experts (on right).
National Rehabilitation Centre – head doctor is second from left. She is heavily involved in promoting OT to the Ministry of Health.
Patients in OT treatment at the National Rehab Centre – family members are given blue smocks and help out providing much of the treatment.
National Pediatric Hospital – second from left is head doc (loved him). His son is studying at U of T. He is with 2 giantesses (second and third from right) and Ministry of Health rep is third from left – explains why we got the golden treatment!
Perhaps my favourite photo from the hospitals – medical records at the National Geriatric Hospital

Monday ended with Toan taking us out to Cha Ca restaurant. No menu – no need as they only serve cha ca. Hope you like cha ca (cha = chopped; ca = fish). We did – it was delicious!

Toan and Paula (an American lawyer that specializes in health care law and is volunteering with VNAH for 9 months).
Cha ca
Street selling ONLY Christmas decorations – kind of like the Dollar Store on steroids


  1. Fascinating! I hope you can help them make their case!!!

  2. Talk about a stretch objective…!
    Sounds interesting and fun, a great combination.

  3. Sounds like an interesting adventure … much different than last time. The pictures are awesome. Be well.

  4. So nice to feel appreciated and to be held in high regard. Hope you are basking in it. What an interesting challenge to rack your brains how you can provide the most benefit. I know you can rise to it.
    Enjoy the gastronomy.

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