September 1971: The Opening of Vì Dân Hospital in Saigon

Bệnh Viện Vì Dân (often known in English at the time as Vì Dân Hospital, rather than by its direct translation of People’s Hospital) was the largest and most modern hospital in Vietnam after it opened in Saigon in September 1971. It was built and administratively controlled by Nguyễn Thị Mai Anh (known as Madame Thiệu), wife of the President of the Republic of Vietnam Nguyễn Văn Thiệu and the state’s first lady. Madame Thiệu was a lead figure in raising funds from Vietnamese aristocracy, businessmen and industry tycoons to build the hospital. The original People’s Hospital was run as a private hospital. However, under Madame Thiệu’s administration, the hospital became a public service without hospital fees, medical fees or traditional Vietnamese medicine.

In September 1975, artist Ngô Viễn Chí visited Vì Dân Hospital in search of his old unit. The painting he created of the hospital’s kitchen provides some indication as to the capabilities and technology of the hospital in 1975. At the time of Chí’s visit, the hospital had 400 beds.

After Liberation in 1975, Vì Dân Hospital was renamed Bệnh viện Thống Nhất (or Reunification Hospital) under the management of the Ministry of Defence of Vietnam. From 11 May 1978, the hospital was put under the administration of the Ministry of Health in Vietnam and remains one of Vietnam’s leading institutions in public healthcare. It is located at 1 Lý Thường Kiệt Street, Ward 7, Tân Bìn District in Ho Chi Minh City, between Tân Sơn Nhất international airport and the centre of the city. Today, it now contains approximately 1,000 beds, making it the largest public hospital in Vietnam.

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