In a medical first for Việt Nam, three Hà Nội hospitals have been officially accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons in London, UK. The trio of health facilities will now join a prestigious list featuring the world’s very best surgical centres.

This top-notch accreditation has been awarded to Hồng Ngọc, Việt Đức (Việt Nam-Germany Friendship Hospital), and 108 Military hospitals. Representatives from the Royal College of Surgeons this week visited each centre to see first-hand the incredible work they do. Established more than 200 years ago, the Royal College of Surgeons of England is an independent professional body and registered charity that promotes and advances standards of surgical care for patients. Its members include some of the world’s finest physicians, and the inclusion of three Vietnamese hospitals will open doors in training, knowledge and expertise.

Salim Nazir, head of quality assurance at the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “The Royal College of Surgeons of England accredits surgical training centres across the world to share good practice. This one is very important because this is the first one that we’ve done in Việt Nam and it’s about trying to upskill surgeons across the world and I think for Việt Nam it will make a big difference to the training that surgeons get now and actually how they go on and train other surgeons as well.”

Trần Văn Thuấn, Deputy Minister of Health, said: “This is one of the very important events marking the 50th anniversary of Việt Nam-UK relations as well as aiming to elevate Việt Nam’s health sector towards integration into the world.

“This is bilateral cooperation between Việt Nam and the UK. Besides technique transfer especially for craniofacial, maxillofacial and paediatrics fields, the UK side will also send young doctors to Việt Nam to learn and exchange experience in fields that the Vietnamese side has significant experience in.”

The whole operation was the brainchild of Katrin Kandel, CEO of Facing the World – a UK-based charity helping correct facial deformities in children. She has worked tirelessly for the past three years, mainly during the COVID pandemic, to secure the status for the hospitals here in Việt Nam.

“It’s been a long journey but seeing these amazing health facilities receive such a prestigious honour is an incredibly proud moment,” Katrin said. “But the real heroes behind this accreditation are the hardworking, caring and dedicated staff who each day work tirelessly to make lives better for thousands of Vietnamese patients. We are hoping to be able to use the Royal College to enable younger Vietnamese doctors to come to the UK and work under something called the International Surgical Training Programme, where they can train for one to two years and then come back and increase the expertise of the centres.”

Representatives at the three hospitals understand this is a massive opportunity to not only improve the quality of their own staff, but also better the health of a nation. Văn Tuấn Nhật, Deputy General Director at Hồng Ngọc Hospital, said: “From my perspective, I see that this cooperation is a major milestone not only for the centrally-run hospitals but also private ones like Hồng Ngọc Hospital. From this collaboration, there will be more exchanges between the health sectors of the UK and Việt Nam and this will happen very soon.”

Lê Diệp Linh, Deputy Head of the Center for Craniofacial and Plastic Surgery at the 108 Military Hospital, added: “This is both a humanitarian surgery and an opportunity to transfer large and difficult techniques from advanced countries to Việt Nam.”

Nguyễn Hồng Hà, Head of the Facial Plastic and Aesthetic Surgery Department at Việt Đức Hospital, added: “The cooperation with the UK, which has been renowned for their significant experience, gives us the chance to learn about a new approach. They have a team of plastic surgeons, otolaryngologists, eye surgeons, neurosurgeons, anaesthesiologists coming here to do a surgery. So they can all do it at once without having it done many times separately so it saves us a lot of time compared to the old way of doing it. This collaboration will allow us to learn from their approach.”

A ceremony was held yesterday at the residence of UK Ambassador to Việt Nam, Iain Frew. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the three hospitals, Facing the World and the Royal College of Surgeons. The Ambassador said: “Beyond the Memorandum of Understanding, this really symbolises a partnership which is about training and supporting doctors to develop their skills and ultimately to help children, particularly children with facial deformities.”

Consultant plastic surgeon and Facing the World trustee Norma Timoney has performed many operations in Việt Nam. She feels there is plenty doctors in the west can learn from their Vietnamese counterparts. She said: “It’s good to see another system, to see how they manage with different resources, less resources, and how everything can be done in so many different ways. “And we teach, we exchange quite a lot. They have actually more complicated patients sometimes than we do, or more of them.”

Senior hospital staff sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Royal College of Surgeons and Facing the World. VNS Photo Vân Nguyễn

Also at the ceremony, Facing the World CEO Kandel was awarded a medal of honour by the Ministry of Health for her work in Việt Nam.

The boy who just wants to be like his friends

Nguyến Tiến Long with his son Nguyễn Đình Duy Khánh at 108 Military Hospital before his surgery.

10-year-old Nguyễn Đình Duy Khánh is football crazy. He loves watching Việt Nam play but he’s also a fan of Argentina, and in particular, Lionel Messi. He also loves to play. Like the Argentina captain, Khánh is also a centre forward, and he enjoys nothing better than a kick-around with his friends.

On the pitch, he and his teammates are all equals, but Khánh knows he is very different indeed from the rest of his pals. Khánh has hypertelorism, a condition he was born with, meaning his eyes are extremely far apart. “We try to give him mental support and comfort,” said his father, Nguyễn Tiến Long. “When he is at school he is teased a lot. All we can do is console him.” This week, Khánh went under the knife at 108 Military Hospital.

The operation was carried out by surgeons from the UK, Canada and Australia, all through Facing the World. “I really appreciate the support of the community, society and the doctors,” his father added. “I hope he will get better soon and look more like his friends.”

Leading the six-hour procedure was Dr Chris Forrest, a reconstructive surgeon from Canada. He said: “Because he has such a significant facial difference, he is being teased, he is being ostracised by the community, so we will do an operation to move his eyes closer together. “We do it through an incision across the top of the head, and small incisions around the mouth so that ultimately there are no physical scars as they will be covered by his hair. “We remove the frontal bone, then cut around the eye sockets, remove a piece of bone in the middle, and move the eyes closer together.”

Nguyễn Đình Duy Khánh in surgery

Doctors said yesterday they were pleased with the results of the surgery and hoped he will be able to return to his home in the central province of Nghệ An very soon, although he may need to wait a little while longer before he is out on the football pitch with his friends.


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