Medical professionals provide free services in rural Yunnan
In July this year, thirty-six medical professionals from across China volunteered to help out at a health center in Tuoding Lisu Ethnic Township in the Diqing TibetanAutonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, in southwest China.
They had one mission in mind—to help local people who had difficulties getting access to medical services, such as professional counselling and medicines. Let's find out what common diseases the local people are suffering from and why so many of them have similar problems.
Medical professionals arrived at dispensary of Tuoding Township. Local people were waiting at the gate to welcome them. [Photo: China Plus]
It's 10 o'clock in the morning. Representatives from Tuoding present hada, a white silk scarf, to the volunteer doctors as a sign of blessing and respect. The doctors have come a long way to help local people. They specialize in ten areas, including pneumology, orthopedics, cardiology, gastroenterology, dermatology and neurology.
A representative from Tuoding presented hada, a white silk scarf, to a voluntary doctor to show respect and blessings. [Photo: China Plus]
Tuoding has fewer than 10,000 people and most are Tibetans and Lisu. Many of them only speak their local dialect, so interpreters are needed to enable the doctors to communicate with their patients.
Xiao Lei is a neurologist from the Beijing Fengtai Hospital of Integrated Traditional Western Medicine. He has been working in the free clinic for people in rural areas for eight years. He's now seeing a patient in his fifties.
"The blood pressure test shows you have hypertension, which explains why you get headaches from time to time. I can prescribe medicine to lower your blood pressure. I suggest you should have a Homocysteine test when you have time. It can indicate if you're at risk of heart disease or stroke, or if you need to start taking folic acid."
Xiao Lei was seeing a patient, with the help of an interpreter. [Photo: China Plus]
Xiao also tells the patient that he needs to take a blood pressure test after he's been on the medicine for five days. He has to constantly measure it until it is below 140/90. The doctor stresses that he needs to lower his blood pressure gradually.
"His blood pressure needs to decrease slowly. If we draw a diagram of the trend of his blood pressure, it should gently decline. Now your blood pressure is 220. It would be best to take a month to get it down to normal levels. From now on, you need to eat less salt and give up drinking if possible."
Doctor Lv is seeing a patient who has been suffering from back pain for two years. [Photo: China Plus]
After thanking Doctor Xiao for his advice, the patient goes to orthopedics on the second floor. The room is packed, with at least thirty patients. The orthopedist, Lv Yinge, is seeing a patient in her forties who has been suffering from back and leg pain for two years.
With the interpreter's help, the doctor comes closer to the patient and checks her condition by gently pressing different parts of her back and legs with his hands.
"Do you feel pain here? How about here? Do you feel something if I move your leg in this direction?"
Doctor Lv says orthopedic disorders like arthritis, fascitis and Lumbar disc herniation are common among local people.
"Many of them suffer from orthopedic disorders because they do labor-intensive work. It is also caused by the local weather. They stand for hours in cold water in the paddy fields. This is bad for their bones. They also don't know enough about how to protect themselves."
The dispensary is not equipped with X-ray machines or magnetic resonance imaging, so Doctor Lv prescribes his patients with medicines that are effective in easing pain.
"I can only prescribe medicines according to their symptoms. I often write down the tests they need to do in the future on their record."
After half a day seeing patients, Doctor Xiao echoes the fact that a lot of their illnesses are closely associated with their lifestyles.
"I found that the people here don't like eating fruit or vegetables. They often eat oily and salty food and a massive amount of meat. This explains why so many have high blood pressure, diabetes and cerebrovascular disease. They also drink a lot to keep warm since it is cold and damp here, and also to ease pain. It was absurd when one patient said she only drank a bit of alcohol each day, but it turns out that 'tiny bit' actually meant half a litre."
In one day's free clinic, 400 people out of the 1,000 population of the town come to see the doctors. On average, each visits three doctors for different problems. Many of them get a lot of medicines when they leave.
This man has just finished all the procedures and is about to go home. When we ask him what medicines he's got, he happily opens his bag and smiles widely. He says, "doctors gave me a lot and I believe they will be helpful."
According to Xiao Lei, they have prescribed around fifty different donated medicines worth more than 150,000 yuan, about 22,000 US dollars, on the day they are in Tuoding Lisu Ethnic Township. In the next following days, the group of medical specialists will travel to other places in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture to help more patients.
Unfortunately, although these drugs are easy to find in bigger cities, they're hard to come by in local hospitals. Doctor Xiao says the level of medical care there is considerably lower than the average in China, and says what is needed now is training.
"The level of medical care here is relatively equal to how the capital and coastal cities were 40 years ago. In recent decades, the central government has spent a lot to help them build new infrastructure. You can see the dispensary looks nice. I have visited several hospitals in poor regions. They have a lot more modern facilities now, but the doctors there don't know how to use them. What they need currently is to improve their training."
In addition to the badly needed training program for local medical workers, the visiting doctors also point out the need for the local people to raise awareness of learning basic medical knowledge so that they will be motivated to get rid of bad habits.
(Written by Chen Ziqi; narrated by Yang Yong.)