Attempting to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Laos followed lockdown restrictions during April and it wasn’t until May 4 that some of those restrictions were eased, allowing some activities to resume at LFHC and Luang Prabang. It has been more than one month since a new case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Laos and the majority of the 19 existing cases have recovered.
LFHC kept its commitment to provide health care to the community of northern Laos during the lockdown. We made sure our team as well as all the supplies and equipment were always ready for our patients. However, to follow the government’s lockdown restrictions and to protect our team, patients and their families, we implemented such precautions as suspending weekly clinics, classroom teaching and normal homecare schedules.
Compassionate care has always been a priority at LFHC. Patients who needed urgent care were always received and treated at the hospital. Our Outreach Team visited critical patients with a special permit from the health department and the LFHC staff ensured that patients and families at the hospital were cared for and supported. During the travel restrictions, LFHC offered food to any family with a hospitalized child and we made room in the Thalassemia Clinic for the parents of babies in the Neonatal Unit (The Thalassemia Clinic was suspended, but its patients could receive treatment in the Outpatient Department). During the lockdown, our team noticed a reduction in the number of families who expressed a need to return home with their children earlier than medically advised.
In the absence of foreign volunteer clinical supervision (volunteer doctors and nurses returned to their home countries at the outset of the pandemic), the Laotian clinical team demonstrated outstanding leadership. The presence of local doctors had been increased at night to ensure better supervision of emergency cases during the few hours they are working without direct supervision from our medical education director and medical director (they both rotated shifts to provide 24-hour on-call support). The nurses’ shifts became independent and their shift leaders stepped up at confirming dosages of medicine administrated to our patients, a responsibility formerly handled by nurse volunteers.
The end of the national lockdown in early May allowed all hospital staff to return to work and it has been wonderful to have all the team back! Development and Thalassemia clinics once again began weekly sessions, classrooms reopened for medical education and English language lessons resumed.
Our caseload has begun to grow and we expect the patient attendance rate to come back to its formerly high level.