A majority of Ho Chi Minh City's 91 hospitals have set up nutrition and dietetics wards to improve treatment and recovery from surgery, city officials reported.

Tang Chi Thuong, deputy head of the Health Department, said such wards were established following the Ministry of Health's guidelines.

At least 34 hospitals have set up dedicated nutrition wards with facilities, and another 27 hospitals, without such facilities, have a team of staff who offer nutritional guidance to patients.

Huynh Thi Phuong of the department's medical profession division said that Gia Dinh People's Hospital, Paediatrics Hospital N°1 and 115 People's Hospital, for example, had effectively carried out nutrition intervention in clinical care.

Gia Dinh People's Hospital decided to give priority to invest in a ward and now also offers counselling to outpatients, and said Ta Thi Tuyet Mai, head of the nutrition and dietetics ward.

Doctors of the ward work with other treatment wards to check the nutritional status of inpatients, especially those in serious condition, and then draw up a diet plans for them.

In addition, the ward has a facility for making nutritious meals for other wards' doctors and inpatients, and gives advice on nutrition supplied intravenously to patients as well.

Each day, the ward serves 200-300 meals for inpatients with diabetes and kidney failure, and those who are recovering from surgery, she said.

Huynh Van An of the hospital's intensive care unit said that most of his patients needed special nutritional care.

Nutrition intervention is especially critical for patients with more serious conditions, as it can reduce the treatment time as well as costs, An said.

Brochures are also provided by the ward to guide the hospital's doctors on how to define nutritional status and needs for their outpatients.

The wards also provides technical assistance on nutrition intervention to many other hospitals in the city, Mai said.

The City Paediatrics Hospital N°1 also also has a dedicated ward for such services, helping clinical treatment wards assess patients' nutritional status and setting up proper diets.

In the first nine months of the year, the ward assessed the nutritional status of 2,257 inpatients and gave them information on a proper diet, according to the ward's report. Of those, 61.5 percent were malnourished and 2.57 percent were obese.

During the same time period, the ward served meals to 11,559 inpatients, including malnourished patients, those with kidney diseases and others who are obese.

It also provides care to inpatients before they are discharged from the hospital.

Thuong has asked leaders of hospitals that have no nutrition wards to invest in them by 2015.

The department has also targeted by 2015 setting up a network on nutrition and dietetics that will include doctors of the special wards and other clinical wards.
In addition, all inpatients' nutritional status and diet will be assessed, and by 2020, all outpatients will have the same service.

Hospital representatives said, however, that with the shortage of human resource and facilities, the targets would be difficult to reach.-VNA