Taiwan medical team warms hearts in eastern India


NEW DELHI–A group of Taiwanese doctors and other specialists have completed a 10-day medical service mission in eastern India, where they worked to warm the hearts of local residents in winter. The 20-member mission was composed of doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and volunteers, who arrived in India Jan. 20 to provide medical services to locals suffering from lower back pain, arthritis, high blood pressure and gum diseases — the most commonly seen diseases in Sikkim province and Darjeeling in West Bengal province. Chen Chih-fu, leader of the Taiwan Health Service Group, said respiratory infections and tinea capitis — a fungal infection of the scalp — was also common among local residents and young lamas. Based on its five-year experience in that area, the team also gave some training to local service providers who will eventually be able to write simple prescriptions, take care of wounds and refer patients to doctors, Chen said. Five dental school students in the mission taught local people how to brush their teeth the right way and observe proper oral hygiene. They brought with them 3,600 toothbrushes as gifts for gum disease patients and others. Two Chi Mei Hospital staff members took the opportunity to assess the feasibility of stationing a small medical team at the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre (TRSHC). Lee Ying-li, a Chi Mei specialist, said X-ray and other basic facilities are already there. “What we need are medical doctors who are willing to work here,” Lee said. She said the center, which offers blood and urine tests, is expected to be become operational in summer. It will be first overseas medical clinic staffed by Taiwan volunteer doctors and nurses for at least eight months per year. The Taiwanese team worked in temperatures of five and six degrees Celsius in the daytime and below zero at night. The cold weather was a big test for the Taiwanese volunteers, some of whom were “frozen awake” waiting for daybreak, as no heaters were available in their rooms. The volunteers, all of whom paid their own way, had to travel on makeshift detour paths as some of the main roads were blocked by landslides. At one point, according to Chen Chih-fu, they had to drive on a makeshift road along a cliff in Darjeeling, as political strife forced them to change routes and travel at night. Sometimes they had to travel a long way to the service point, so they had to depart before daybreak and take naps along the way. But when they saw the waiting Tibetan patients, Chen said, they immediately forgot their fatigue and began working in good spirits. Chen Tung-tai, the fifth-grade son of the team leader, was assigned the task of measuring and recording the height and weight of the patients. Asked to comment on the food, he said, “Little other than starch, hot chili and salt.” But all of the difficulties and harsh conditions quickly faded away when they saw the grateful smiles on the faces of the 1,500 patients in six places over the past 10 days, the volunteers said. Part of the group arrived in New Delhi Saturday night, while most of the team members returned home on Sunday.