Saigon taxis converted into makeshift Covid-19 ambulances 


For the past 4 weeks, Saigon has recorded over 3,000 Covid-19 cases daily. While sending infected people to quarantine facilities and hospitals, many ambulance drivers were also exposed to the virus and quarantined. 

Due to a severe shortage of ambulance drivers, according to Tuoi Tre, SOS Center 115 called on local drivers to join the frontline teams to help transport patients.

To help more infected patients get timely treatment, medical leaders and cab operators have converted taxis into makeshift ambulances. Many local taxi drivers have also volunteered to drive ambulances carrying infected people to hospitals. 


Saigon taxi operators cooperate with the Ministry of Health on Covid-19 efforts



Around 200 taxis in Saigon have been converted into Covid-19 ambulances.
Image credit:
Thanh Nien

According to
Thanh Nien, Ho Chi Minh City Medical Department and Mai Linh Taxi Operator have joined hands on a campaign to convert 200 cabs into makeshift Covid-19 ambulances. 

As per the plan, SOS Center 115 can dispatch taxis to fetch infected patients once there are available slots in any local hospital. 

Image credit: Thanh Nien

Inside the cabs are oxygen tanks as well as medical volunteers for infected patients’ timely assistance. 

For those who need ambulances for other reasons than Covid-19 treatment, you can still call Mai Linh Taxi at 1055 or Vinasun Taxi at 028 38 27 27 27.


Story of a taxi driver turned ambulance driver



Mr Dzung is an experienced taxi driver based in Saigon
Image credit: Thanh Nien

Mr Nguyen Duc Dzung, a Mai Linh taxi driver with many years of experience under his belt, is one of the many cab drivers who have joined the ambulance service these days.

2 months ago, he was staying home all the time because there were no customers. 

The moment his company called on employees to volunteer as Covid-19 ambulance drivers, he immediately stepped up.


Mr Dzung carrying an infected patient’s belongings to his car
Image credit: Thanh Nien

Even though he was gripped with fear in the first few days, he gradually got used to his special and dangerous job.

“Because I’m a Saigonese, I have a responsibility towards my community and contribute my little efforts to the battle,” he said.   


Image credit: Thanh Nien

Joining him in his daily free rides to rescue the infectious are Hoang and Danh, a medical student and a nurse. Due to the nature of their work, the 3 of them live together in a school, away from their families. 

Whenever the team receives calls about infected home-bound residents being in critical conditions, they will rush to the given locations with oxygen tanks.

While it normally takes them only 10-15 minutes to drive to a patient’s home, it can take them hours before they can bring that patient to a hospital.


There’s no greater joy than bringing critically ill patients to hospitals



Image credit: Thanh Nien

After reaching the patients, the team will report to SOS Center 115 to get help with finding a slot in a hospital. 

Since most hospitals in Saigon are filled these days, it can take several hours to find a hospital with an available bed. During the excruciating waiting time, Hoang and Danh had to help the patient breathe and comfort the family members.


Image credit: Thanh Nien


Once the SOS Center 115 can find a critically ill patient a slot, Mr Dzung’s team will immediately transfer the patient to the given hospital.

Upon reaching the hospital gates, a doctor will let the team and the family of the infected patient know in advance about the treatment conditions.

“Our hospital is suffering from a shortage of oxygen tanks. Besides, there’re no beds. If you’re hospitalized now, you’ll have to sleep on the ground. If your family agrees, kindly sign these papers and we’ll admit you. We can’t guarantee you anything about the oxygen. The system is overloaded,” a doctor says.   


The team talking with a doctor at the hospital gate
Image credit: Thanh Nien

The moment an infected patient is hospitalized, that’s when Mr Dzung’s team completes its task and continues driving to another patient’s house.  

“Helping patients in time, bringing them to the hospitals, and seeing them admitted are the greatest joy to me and my brothers. There’s no greater joy than saving a life,” Mr Dzung shared. 

However, not all efforts pay off. 

Once, Mr Dzung’s team rushed to a given address after hearing about a Covid-19 patient who needed to be hospitalized immediately.

The moment they reached the patient’s house, they received information that the person had just died.

“When I turned my car around and drove away, my heart was filled with grief. I couldn’t sleep at all,” Mr Dzung said, with a voice filled with regrets.


It’s amazing to see volunteers take the strain in the Covid-19 battle  


With spiking Covid-19 infections daily, stretched resources are inevitable. It’s heart-warming to see volunteers like Mr Dzung, Hoang, and Danh working flat out to get infected patients to hospitals. 

For the past couple of days, we’ve seen a growing number of Saigon’s population get inoculated and the total infections drop. This is great news and a clear indication that things are looking up.

However, let’s not get complacent or ignore the safety protocols. Remember to observe social distancing while you’re out on essential trips and get vaccinated while you can. 

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Cover image adapted from: Thanh Nien

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