Vietnam - Day 8 Saigon

The morning started with a very formal inauguration of the HCM City club, which essentially is a branch of the Vietnamese Haemophilia Society. There are over 50 people attending, with high-powered doctors there and we are invited to the top table as guests. There is a TV camera for local news reporting. The opening ceremony lasts two hours the most touching contribution being from a fairly disabled man with haemophilia who is obviously overcome with emotion at the set up of this club, and what he hopes may improve overall treatment. After it finishes it gives us an opportunity to mix and talk to the haemophiliacs and parents attending. They are extremely friendly and talk freely and ask us about our services and the level of treatment we receive. In fact it's a little humbling as I soon realise that in perhaps two or three treatments I would have used up an entire years treatment for one of these young men. They can only live in hope, and repeatedly I am told our position is a dream for them.

After another fine lunch with the doctors we have a couple of workshops to discuss the way to organise a society and how to get and train volunteers.

That finishes our work for the day so we have 3 days left to enjoy ourselves.

Vietnam - Day 7, Saigon

We set off at 6.45am for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Vietnam is a long country it being some 1900 km between these two cities and it takes 2 hours by plane. The first impressions of HCM is a slightly more modern city to Hanoi with wider streets though the traffic is still fairly hectic.

In the afternoon we are to visit the blood bank and three hospitals that treat haemophilia. It's when you visit hospitals like these that you realise how lucky we are, there are many problems with our health service, but here things are much worse. The doctors and nurses are excellent but they cannot work miracles with the resources they have. We see crowded hospitals with no privacy and in many cases patients are sharing beds. The worse part of this is that haemophilia is readily treatable, and patients can treat themselves at home with modern treatment. When this is done there are less strains on the medical system, with patients being more healthy and requiring less hospitalisation. Instead here there is limited and poorer quality treatment which means these young men are severely disabled, which means they cannot get full education and hence appropriate jobs. Also here the patients must pay a contribution towards their treatment (20%) except if they are destitute. Salaries are poor here so that one treatment can cost as much as a months salary. So it is not unknown to sell their possessions and homes to pay for treatment. Because these children and men are not getting sufficient treatment most are disabled with deformed joins and in many cases they have lost limbs. It is a very humbling experience.

Tomorrow we are to return for the formal set up of a branch of the Vietnamese Haemophilia Society in HCM city and for workshops.

Again we are treated to a very nice seafood meal in a fine restaurant by the health care professionals in HCM city, our hosts are extremely hospitable and friendly and it is a very enjoyable evening.