Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital
Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital, inaugurated on March 15, 1999, serves as a beacon of health for residents living in southern regions of Hualien. Decades after in service, the hospital is now capable of expanding its medical services into regions too remote to reach.
The Compassionate Wish of a Local Doctor
The facilitators of Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital are Sister Chen Ching-Chih and her husband Dr. Tsao Wei. Shortly after the founding of Tzu Chi Foundation1966, in 1968, Sister Ching-Chih joined the foundation. She soon introduced the Foundation to her husband, who was serving in Yuli Veterans Hospital at the time as a surgeon. In March 1973, Typhoon Nora brought devastation on the town Yuli and the rest of the Eastern Coast. Both of them joined the relief effort and free clinic, and thereafter Dr. Tsao became actively involved in the free clinic services of Tzu Chi Foundation.
Due to the profound knowledge of the medical scarcity in eastern Taiwan, Dr. Tsao and his wife left Yuli Veterans Hospital to found a hospital of their own, “Hung-Te Hospital”. Master Cheng Yen presented them with a plaque inscribed with “Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation provides medicine to the poor”. Ever since its inauguration, Dr. Tsao never refused a single patient referred to him by the Foundation. During the construction of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, Dr. Tsao and his wife donated a total sum of NTD 1.4 million towards the hospital despite their tight budget from the recent ward expansion. After Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital’s inauguration in August 1986, Dr. Tsao volunteered at the hospital, traveling between Yuli and Hualien, for three years straight, until a toe amputation prohibited him from such intense schedule. During treatment at Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, he proposed to Master Cheng Yen during a visit that, when his time comes, he wanted to handover the hospital to Tzu Chi, placing the health and safety of the Yuli residents in the hand of Master Cheng Yen. “Be at ease! Compassion and respect for life is the commitment of Tzu Chi, we will not fail you,” Master Cheng Yen replied. In May 1992, Dr. Tsao was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away in December of the same year at the age of 63. The operation of Hung-Te Hospital was taken over by his son Tsao Ko-Nung who flew back from the United States.
Before his passing, Dr. Tsao told his wife, “You should not be so occupied with the hospital affairs. If it is too much for you, just leave it to Master!” As time went on, high staff turnover paired with the increasing medical demands from the local community overburdened the hospital. Remembering the last words of her husband, Sister Ching-Chih told her son, “let us handover the hospital to Tzu Chi!” Understanding the critical importance of medical service in southern Hualien, Master agreed. In Dec. 1998, Hung-Te Hospital transferred its right of operation to Tzu Chi Foundation.
Dr. Kuo Hann-Chorng, Director of Urology, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, was in charge of the planning of Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital. Many patients of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital came from Zhuoxi, Chenggong, Dawu, Taimali and etc., he said, and a visit to the hospital would cost them an entire day. The establishment of Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital could certain reduce that travel time and offer its community quality medical services they deserve.
A New Hospital Erecting on Highway No. 9
Ever since Tzu Chi Foundation took over the right of operation of Hung-Te Hospital on March 1 1999, staff from the foundation’s Department of Construction immediately stationed in the hospital, working day and night. In a short two-week period, the four-floored building occupying a little more than 1,500 square meters became as good as new.
On March 15, with the blessing of the hospital staff and local residents, Master Cheng Yen unveiled the red cloth, officially inaugurated Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital. “The purpose of a hospital is to treat patients. But I would like to bless everyone to remain healthy and hospital-free!” Master Cheng Yen said during the inauguration. Chen Ing-Ho, the vice superintendent of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, assumed the position of superintendent at Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital, leading the improvement in access to medicine in remote areas. In August of the same year, Vice Supt. Wang Ji-Hung, cardiology specialist at Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, succeeded the superintendent position. Dr. Chang Yuh-Lin, specializes in neurosurgery, decided to migrate to Yuli with his entire family to assume the vice-superintendent position. He then succeeded the superintendent position in 2005 to present.
In August 2000, Typhoon Bilis,17 on Beaufort scale, rampaged Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital, leaving multiple structural damages and water-leaks hospital-wide. To maintain a 25-year-old property was proven too strenuous, therefore, on the morning of Jan. 6 2002, the groundbreaking ceremony for the new hospital was held on No.1-1, Minquan St., Yuli Township, the present address of the Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital. With the hope and support from the local community through donations and fundraisers, the new medical building inaugurated on Sept. 22, 2003. The old building was first repurposed to dormitory and event venues, then converted into Yuli Jing-Si Hall on March 13, 2010.
EMS Responsibility Hospital in Southern Hualien
The main building of Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital occupies approximately 7,500 square meters, with a total of 60 hospital beds, and employed nearly 100 staff. Located at the midpoint between Taitung and Hualien, around 100 km from both cities, Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital is medically and geographically vital to the residents in the nearby communities, especially for those living in the mountains.
Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital integrates neurosurgery, orthopedics, gastrointestinal surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology, and gastroenterology to assemble a critical medical team, where all doctors and physicians are on 24-hour standby. Although the number of emergency patients is low, averaging 30 patients a day, the hospital assigns one physician and one surgeon at the emergency room around the clock. Since operation, the hospital has received hundreds of emergency cases that require brain surgeries as result of automobile accidents, accidents, strokes, cerebral hemorrhage, ruptured cerebral aneurysm and etc. Even when the hospital is completely full, or faced with emergency cases like aortic arch rupture that require a cardiac surgeon, the medical team, fulfilling the role of a front-line hospital, would first stabilize the patient to the best of their ability before transferring them to other better -equipped hospitals, drastically increasing the survival rate of these critical patients. Standing firm as the guardian of local communities, Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital were designated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare as the EMS (emergency medical service) responsibility hospital of southern Hualien.
Strong Promoter of Community Health
In 2011, the number of resident doctors in Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital reached 10, five in surgery, three in internal medicine, 1 in pediatrics and 1 in obstetrics & gynecology. Other departments still require the assistance from Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital. As for the nursing staff, a total of 20 plus nurses were responsible for the affairs of the entire hospital. A nurse working at ER, for example, often had to help out at inpatient clinics. Despite limited staff, the hospital continued its routine home visits in surrounding communities for the past decade, as well as medical outreach and fundraisers nationally and internationally.
Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital tailors its services according to regional characteristics, such as 6 am morning clinic to comply with the routines of local farmers, health education and care for community elders, and the initiation of vaccination program in nearby communities.
Supt. Chang Yuh-Lin wishes that Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital can serve the community as a beacon of health and hope that is based on and characteristic by humanistic practices of medicine.