Clinical Excellence

Published: April 2014

For many years, the International SOS clinic in Hanoi has provided a comprehensive range of primary healthcare and emergency medical services. In 2010, the clinic relocated to the city’s West Lake district, where it has extended its reach through a unique care partnership with the United Nations International School (UNIS) in the heart of the expat community.

International SOS has been operating in Vietnam for over 20 years. With three strategically-located clinics, one in Ho Chi Minh City, one in Vung Tau and one in Hanoi, its network comprises 278 providers and a team of multi-lingual doctors and nurses, in total covering 44 provinces across the country. In Hanoi, the International SOS clinic offers fulltime GP and emergency services, paediatrics and gynaecology, as well as a team of national doctors and specialists in the fields of dermatology, cardiology and ophthalmology. The clinic also employs a French dentist and an orthodontist, who flies in from Thailand once a month.


Beyond standard health assessments, the most common reasons for people coming to the Hanoi clinic include coughs, colds and respiratory problems linked to high levels of pollution, 60-70% of which is linked to motor vehicle emissions. Gastroenteritis is also rife, particularly among expatriates and tourists, while motorbike accidents have become an all-too-regular occurrence in the city.

“Due to dense traffic, bad roads and poor driving skills, we see all sorts of injuries,” says Dr Damien Cummins, “from simple cuts and bruises to more serious fractures and organ injuries.”

The risk of tropical disease, however, is less of a concern in Hanoi than it is down south in the Mekong Delta. Even so, the clinic provides a schedule of recommended vaccinations for those arriving from overseas. “Rabies is a big problem in South East Asia,” says Dr Damien Cummins, “causing an estimated 20,000 deaths a year, for this reason we recommend pre-exposure vaccinations but also have everything required to deal with possible exposure to the virus. We also commonly see people presenting with Dengue fever in the summer months so are well experienced in managing the disease and any possible complications.”

In a city where public and private healthcare facilities are inconsistent, the Hanoi clinic staff are committed to providing world-class medical care. Through a combination of expatriate and national health professionals, the clinic offers a multi-lingual and multi-cultural team that puts customer service and professionalism above all else. The number of languages spoken on site – English, Vietnamese, and Japanese, to name but a few – is of course a major advantage. Clients not only receive expert care but the reassurance of all related information being delivered in their mother tongue. Even if the requisite language skills are not immediately available on site, the team can quickly put in a ‘trialogue’ call via our Assistance Centres.

A Korean tourist, seeking emergency assistance for a friend in 2013, recalls how staff were able to help:

“I thought at the time it was a Vietnamese clinic, then the doctor made a call to a Korean doctor so we could communicate over the phone. There was also a load of Korean brochures we could take away with us. The next day, when we returned, there was a Korean nurse waiting to greet us. My advice is: don’t worry if you get sick in Vietnam – the International SOS clinic is there!”


The United Nations International School (UNIS) in Hanoi was founded in 1988 to meet the educational needs of expatriate families affiliated to foreign embassies, companies and NGOs. In search of more space and improved facilities, the school relocated to the West Lake area of Hanoi in 2004. When the International SOS clinic also moved into the neighbourhood six years later, a natural partnership developed.

Following the International Baccalaureate system, the school is home to 66 nationalities, 1,058 students and 241 members of staff. The Corporate Medical Access Contract it holds with International SOS entitles all staff and their dependents to expert medical care, delivered either at the Hanoi clinic, at the other clinics in Vietnam or overseas. The clinic also provides medical assistance during field-trips, city visits and overseas excursions. The UNIS nurse prepares all the relevant health files when students travel, so the Hanoi clinic has all necessary information should the need arise.

“It’s a busy and well-travelled student body,” says Maeve O’Donovan, Marketing and Communications Manager, International SOS, Hanoi Clinic, Vietnam. “They’re often engaged in local and regional sporting events – swimming, soccer, volleyball – and we provide whatever support is required. It might involve setting up a first-aid station at a tournament, or providing access to our international network of assistance centres for trips outside the country.” Through these networks, International SOS can provide medical support in the field or, in the event of an emergency, return students to Vietnam or on to Bangkok or Singapore.

On a day-to-day basis, International SOS works with the school to provide health information to teachers and parents, particularly regarding major health issues such as H5N1 (bird flu) or outbreaks of conjunctivitis or HFMD (hand, foot and mouth disease).

“We work closely with the school”, explains Maeve. “It’s a really strong partnership built on professionalism and trust. It involves a great deal of shared information so we can support their vaccination programmes, orientate new teachers, or offer first aid training to their PE coaches and staff. It’s a truly diverse and extensive service. Everyone’s very passionate about the school and this relationship.”

As International SOS looks to expand its operations in Vietnam, the partnership with UNIS is helping to underscore the company’s global credentials and capabilities. It has certainly cemented the Hanoi clinic’s local reputation for excellence, passion and care.