Another appropriate title for this post could be "Don't get sick during Tet."
My mother came to visit last Saturday from the USA. We had a marvelous eight-day trip planned to Myanmar, with a few days in Saigon. When she arrived at my house she began to feel absolutely terrible with some unusual symptoms. I took her to the Franco-Vietnamese Hospital immediately.
Fortunately, there was a good ER doctor on duty that night. He correctly diagnosed her, did a CT scan and began treatment. I consulted an ER doctor friend of mine in the States, and he told me the standard protocol for treatment was tests X, Y and Z. Unfortunately, since this was Tet the hospital was a ghost town -- there were very few technicians and staff on duty. On Sunday I was told that the tests would have to wait until Thursday. "Why?" I asked. "It's Tet" was the response. "There are no technicians on duty." I wouldn't take no for an answer and got the tests done the next day. I don't know whose Tet holiday they had to interrupt to make that happen, and I don't care.
FV Hospital markets itself heavily as an "international standard" hospital. Perhaps it is. The care my mother got after Tet was pretty good. But not on Tet or the 1-2 days after. The place was deserted, and no one seemed willing to take responsibility for my mother's care until I persistently intervened with one of the doctors. Maybe I'm crazy, but that ain't "international standard."
In my book all's well that ends well. My mom was OK and the problem, although serious, proved to be relatively minor and she made a quick recovery. One conclusion I want to share with My Public from this experience is "Don't get sick on Tet."
Another takeaway is "Get travel health insurance whenever you travel," especially outside of North America and Europe. My mom had purchased $1 million of coverage for about $100 for a 2 week period from HTH Worldwide. It was a godsend. HTH was on the problem like white on rice. Not only did they pay for 100% of the week-long hospital stay, but they sent a doctor to Saigon to escort my mother all the way back to Vermont and arranged and paid for flights back in business class. It wasn't just the substantial cost that this saved, but they provided invaluable help with the logistics of the situation and medical consultation with the local doctors.
If you are traveling to Vietnam, I definitely advise that you purchase travel health insurance. One very knowledgeable and helpful American insurance broker specializing in expat health coverage is InsuranceToGo. I spoke to them at length and ended up purchasing my health insurance through them, also with HTH.