There were some bad news this quarter and a lot of good developments, which I would like to share with you. As I’m a bad news first type of person, allow me to share that with you right off the bat. We still don’t have our project up and running and it doesn’t seem likely that we will be able to get the permit of operations this year. Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Well, let me try to assuage the negative impressions from this opening statement with a few good news.
Firstly, we have finally been able to meet the next level of stakeholders in Ho Chi Minh City, who would have a say about the execution of our project. Through a series of connections, I was able to connect with the retired deputy director of the department of health for Ho Chi Minh City, Dr. Le. This was a key connection for us as he in turn facilitated meetings with Dr. Nguyen, the deputy manager of the NTP and head of the Pham Ngoc Thach TB reference hospital for the entire southern region – through one short phone call no less – and the TB officer of the district in which we are planning to implement the first project. Furthermore, this gentleman has 40 years of experience in the Vietnam’s political and public health system and suggested we entertain a different route to make this project happen.
Based on his experience and opinion, Operation ASHA needs to have verifiable results and legal entities vouching for our work and our success. Without that, a permit of operations application is sure to get rejected or will take forever to push through the political red tape. However, without a permit of operations, one is not allowed to open bank accounts, hire staff and start operating in general. Joseph Heller would be proud of the catch-22 in which we have found ourselves.
It just so happens that Dr. Le is also president of a local NGO. He suggested that his NGO could serve as the implementing agency with Operation ASHA as the donor and technical agency. Meanwhile, the local NGO would contract with the government to source the necessary material, people and medication for the project. While this solution would limit the influence and freedom of Operation ASHA to operate independently, it would also serve as potentially great showcase of cross-border public-private partnership. Furthermore, with this type of collaboration, according to Dr. Le, we could have approval to implement the project within several months, anticipating a start in June or July instead of next year.
The engagement and support of all parties involved has been demonstrated last week at the event hosted by Pham Ngo Thach hospital in honor of World TB Day, during which both Dr. Le and Dr. Nguyen announced the upcoming partnership with Operation ASHA on public television. With this type of development and support, I hope you join me in my continuous cautious optimism. Thank you for your continued interest and support and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, should you have any questions. Make sure you also continue to spread awareness about TB and this project to your friends and family, especially in light of World TB Day.
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