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Thursday December 8th, 2022

Vietnam’s epic battle to save UK pilot bring results amid zero Covid-19 mortality

ECONOMYNEXT – A near three month struggle by doctors in Vietnam to save a UK pilot working for the national airline has passed a key milestone with the the patient regaining partial lung function and being taken off an external blood oxygenation machine.

Vietnam has so far maintained a zero deaths from Coronavirus, with critically ill and aged patients with complications being pulled from the brink of death with the help of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) when ventilators no longer work.

The UK pilot or Patient 91, was on ECMO machine and sedated for 57 days and his lung function dropped to 10 percent, and doctors were preparing to transplant lung, when he began to show improvement.

“This is an extraordinary effort, because we had at times been pessimistic,” Luong Ngoc Khue, a senior doctor in a committee treating Coronavirus patients was quoted as saying by Suckhoe Doisong, a news portal linked to Vietnam’s health ministry.

“But today patient made eye contact and smiled encouraging physicians, specialists to keep trying, devote energy to treat patients in the best way we can.”

The patient had regained 58 percent lung function, a stronger cough reflex, could follow doctor’s orders and was showing improved upper limb muscle strength, the report said.


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The pilot is being treated by a committee of top doctors after he was shifted to Cho Ray hospital in Saigon to treat worsening complications from the Tropical Diseases hospital where he fought off Coronavirus.

The patient developed a gamut of complications including blood coagulation, multiple organ damage as well as infections which have been documented by Western researchers in different patients in the last few week in the US and elsewhere.

The health ministry report said kidney function was also improving, and diaphragm was more active on June 05.

Doctors were preparing for a lung transplant when his lungs started to improve. His condition is still serious and doctors are still prepared for in necessary, the report said.

The pilot has no parents and Vietnam authorities had hunted down his closest relative in the UK to get permission for a lung transplant.

Patient 91 was under sedation for several weeks when he was on ECMO therapy.

In most countries, patients die when lungs of Coronavirus patients are too damaged to respond to ventilators, but Vietnam has kept several patients alive with external blood oxygenation long enough to fight off the virus while stabilizing vitals.

Vietnam assembled a team of top specialists in resuscitation, cardiothoracic, infectious, respiratory, and surgery to treat the UK pilot.

After being disconnected from the ECMO machine, the patient was put under continuous pressure ventilation.

Vietnam had perfected the treatment protocol progressing from giving oxygen, CPAP, ventilators and finally ECMO to keep patients alive and maintain a zero death record.

After regaining consciousness last week he had cried when he saw nurses and doctors tending to him, though he could not speak to them, Vietnam’s TouiTre newspaper reported.

Following aggressive physiotherapy he was regaining the function of hands.

Vietnam had treated around 160 foreigners at various hospitals.

The British Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City had written to the head of the People’s Committee, several district chiefs, the Centres of Disease Control, several hospitals in the South and doctors for treating UK nationals.

“Finally I would like to extend by sincere thanks to Ho Chi Minh City Hospital for Tropical Diseases and Cho Ray Hospital who had taken such excellent care of Mr Stephen Cameron (known as Patient 91),” the Consul General wrote in a letter published on TouiTre online.

“The have worked tirelessly and spared no efforts in helping him during the time he had been critically ill in hospital.

“We could not have asked for better treatment. Once again by sincere and personal thanks to all involved in his case.”

Vietnam is probably the most successful country in the world in battling Coronavirus with 328 confirmed cases, 328 recovered, 21 being treated and no deaths according to Health Ministry data.

All the new cases are from abroad from returning Vietnamese.

Vietnam has tightened border patrols along Cambodia after unofficial returnees were found to be infected. (Colombo/June05/2020)

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  1. James says:

    Well done Vietnam & whoever the patient is.
    May God bless you all in abundance and grant the Vietnamese people all prosperity.

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  1. James says:

    Well done Vietnam & whoever the patient is.
    May God bless you all in abundance and grant the Vietnamese people all prosperity.

Sri Lanka in deep talent drain in latest currency crisis

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka businesses are facing a drain of talent, top business executives said as the country suffers the worst flexible exchange rate crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank and people lose hope.

“We are seeing a trend towards migrating,” Krishan Balendra, Chairman of Sri Lanka’s John Keells Holdings told an economic policy forum organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“We have seen an impact mainly on the tourist hotels side, quite an exodus of staff (migrating) to countries we have not seen in the past. 

“We have seen people go to Scotland, Ireland. It has usually been the Middle East and Maldives. Australia seems like a red hot labor market at the moment.”

Sri Lanka’s rupee collapsed from 200 to 360 to the US dollar after macro-economists printed money to suppress rates.

Sri Lanka operates a ‘flexible exchange rate’ where errors in targeting interest rates are compensated by currency depreciation especially after the 1980s.

Classical economists and analysts have called for the power to mis-target rates and operate dual anchor conflicting monetary regimes should be taken away to prevent future crisis.

Currency crises are problems associated with flexible exchange rate central banks which are absent in hard pegs and clean floats.

“Something new we are seeing is that older people, even those in their 50s, which was a surprise, are looking at migrating,” Balendra said.

Businesses are trying to retain talent as real wages collapse.

Balendra said as businesses they see some stability returning and based on past experience growth is likely to resume, and they were communicating with the workers.

“We have a degree of conviction that the economy should get better, its the stability phase now and it will get better going forward so without the way our businesses are placed we should see good growth,” Balendra said.

“We can’t chase compensation that’s just not practical and we are not trying to do that especially if people are looking to immigrate but what we can do is show the career opportunities in the backdrop of the situation that people would rather stay here because its home.” 

Sri Lanka unit of Heineken says it is also trying to convince workers not to leave, with more success.

“We are all facing the effects of brain drain and it’s not just the lower levels… What we are doing is a balance of daring and caring,” Maud Meijboom-van Wel – Managing Director / CEO, Heineken Lanka Ltd told the forum.

“Why I say daring is, you have to be clear in what you can promise people, when you make promises you have to walk the talk. So with the key talents and everyone you need to have the career and talent conversations.

“I am a bit lucky because I am running a multinational company so my career path goes beyond Sri Lanka so I can say if you acquire certain skills here, then you can move out of here and then come back too, that is a bit easier for me but it starts with having a real open conversation with walking the talk – dare and care.” (Colombo/Dec7/2022)


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Despite losses, Sri Lanka to resume “park & ride” transport after complaints  

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka’s state-run Transport Board will resume its loss-making City Bus service from January 15, 2022 Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said, after the service abruptly discontinued with the state-run firm’s director board citing losses.

The City Bus service was introduced in 2021, under the government of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, from Makubura to Pettah and Bambalapitiya.

The service was started to reduce the number of automobiles travelling to and from Colombo and suburbs by providing a comfortable, convenient and safe public bus transportation for passengers and riders who use cars and motorcycles as their means of transportation.

During the time period in which the service was initiated, there were 800 hundred vehicles that would be parked and would use the system, Gunawardena, who is also the Transport Minister, said.

The service was later collapsed due to inconsistencies in scheduling and it was completely stopped after

“Without informing the Secretary or the Minister of the relevant Ministry, the Board of Directors have come to a conclusion that this is loss making route and must be halted,” Gunawardena said.

“The users of the City Bus service brought to our notice and therefore I gave the Secretary to the Ministry of Transport the approval to start the City Bus service from January 15.”

“If we stop all loss making transport services then massive inconveniences will occur to the people in far parts of the island.”

The chairman of the state run Ceylon Transport Board has been asked to handover the resignation letter by the Minister Gunawardana citing that the head has failed to implement a policy decision approved by the government. (Colombo/ Dec 06/2022)

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Sri Lanka may see rates falling next year: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s interest rates are high and hurting small businesses in particular but interest rates are required to maintain stability, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“One is, all of you want to know what’s going to happen to the interest rates?,” President Wickremesinghe told an economic policy forum organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

“I wish I know. The governor has told me that the inflation has peaked. It’s coming down. You all understandably want some relief with the interest rates to carry business on.”

“I understand that and appreciate the viewpoint. It’s not easy to carry business on with such high interest rates. On the other hand, the Central Bank also has to handle the economy. So maybe sometimes early next year we will have a meeting of minds of both these propositions.”

Sri Lanka’s interest rates are currently at around 30 percent but not because the central bank is keeping it up. The central bank’s overnight policy rate is only 15.5 percent but the requirement to finance the budget deficit and roll over debt is keeping rates up.

Rates are also high due to a flaw in the International Monetary Fund’s debt workout framework where there is no early clarity on a whether or not domestic debt will be re-structured.

After previous currency crises, rates come down after an IMF deal is approved and foreign loans resume and confidence in the currency is re-stabilished following a float.

This time however there has been no clear float, though the external sector is largely stable and foreign funding is delayed until a debt re-structure deal is made.

Sri Lanka’s external troubles usually come because the bureaucrats do not believe market rates are correct when credit demand picks up and mis-uses monetary tools given in 1950 by the parliament to suppress rates, blowing the balance of payments apart.

The result of suppressed rates by the central bank are steep spikes in rates to stop the resulting currency crisis.

A reserve collecting central bank has little or no leeway to control interest rates (monetary policy independence) without creating external troubles, which is generally expressed as the ‘impossible trinity of monetary policy objectives’.

However, it has not prevented officials from trying repeatedly to suppress rates, perhaps expecting different results.

After suppressed rates – supposedly to help businesses – trigger currency crises, the normalization combined with a currency collapse leads to impoverishment of the population.

The impoverishment through depreciation leads to a consumption shock, which also leads to revenue losses in businesses.

The suppressed rates then lead to bad loans.

In the 2020/2022 currency crisis the sovereign default has also led to more problems at banks. Several state enterprises also cannot pay back loans.

“…[T]he bad debt that is being carried by the banks is mainly from the private sector or the government sector,” President Wickremesinghe said.

“Keep the government sector aside. We’re dealing with it. How do you handle it? Look, one of our major areas of are the small and medium industries. You can’t allow them to collapse, but they’re in a bad way.”

Classical economists and analysts have called for new laws to block the ability to central bank to suppress rates in the first place so that currency crises and depreciation does not take place in the first place.

Then politicians like Wickremesinghe do not have to take drastic and unpopular measures to fix crises and there will be stability like in East Asia.

Sri Lanka had stability until 1950 when the central bank was created by abolishing an East Asia style currency board. The currency board kept the country relatively stable through two World Wars and a Great Depression.

In 1948 after the war (WWII) was over “we stood second to Japan” Wickremesinghe said.

“But we started destroying it from the sixties and the seventies,” he said. :We started rebuilding an economy, which was affected by a (civil) war, and thereafter the way we went, is best not described here.”

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