Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital
Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital, founded one year after the inauguration of Yuli Tzu Chi Hospital, is located on the same stretch along the eastern rift valley that spans over 216km. Now a Tzu Chi hospital stands in the beginning, the middle, and the end of the rift valley respectively, safeguarding the health and lives of local residents and visiting tourists.
Fulfilling the Dream of the Locals
Kuanshan Township of Taitung County is surrounded by Chishang, Luye, Haiduan, and Yianping Townships, with a total population of 36,000. Situated at the entrance of the Southern Cross-Island Provincial Highway, the area is haunted with automobile accidents, and with hospitals so far away north and south, local residents tend to sit on their illnesses until critical. Hence the locals had always hoped for a hospital nearby that could deal with life-threatening emergencies while attending to the health of the communities.
Tzu Chi Foundation completed the hospital in Kuanshan Township in less than a year, but its former self, “Boai Hospital”, was faced with constant challenges and predicaments. Boai Hospital, started by Dr. Cheng Po-Wen and Dr. Wu Chia-Pin, with the financial support of local construction companies, broke ground in 1995 in response to the medical scarcity in the area. While the hospital was still under construction, Dr. Cheng passed away in an scuba diving accident, and his replacement, Dr. Chuang Jen-Yang, succumbed to liver cancer shortly after. Five years went by and inauguration remained nowhere in sight, Hsu Jui-Kui, the mayor of Kuanshan at the time, seek help from the Foundation, pleading to Master Cheng Yen to take over the hospital, bringing the countless preventable tragedies that haunted the locals for decades to an end.
After a thorough understanding of the matter, Master Cheng Yen agreed. On July 16, 1999, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital and Boai Hospital held a signing ceremony, officially take over the constructions and right of operation of the hospital.
Kuanshan, Where Love Converges
In the following days, whenever Master Cheng Yen traveled through the area, she would tour the premises, pointing out details regarding the exterior and interior of the structure that the construction team had missed. She also reminded the team to raise the bar on the dormitories, so that the hospital staff living in it can focus entirely on their work.
Tzu Chi volunteers around the nation, near and far, came to the hospital to contribute their love and labor. From paving interlocking bricks, greening environments, improving nearby road conditions, to cleaning the entire facility inside out, they did it all in preparation for the highly anticipated inauguration.
Big News for the Small Town
On March 15, 2000, Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital officially inaugurated. As small as it is, Master Cheng Yen came in person to host the opening ceremony. The local communities were thrilled by the event and celebrated as grand as a wedding.
As an ambulance cruised towards the emergency room on the day of the opening ceremony, the mission to safeguard life and health was underway.
As soon as Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital was in service, it faced its first hurdle - staff recruitment. Situated in an area more secluded than Hualien, recruiting was, and still is, a persisting challenge for the hospital. Thanks to the full support of Supt. Chen Ing-Ho and the entire staff of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, did Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital made through the initial staff drought. The first team of staff was, in fact, transferred from Hualien.
The first superintendent was Dr. Lin Yu-Sheng, supported by the very young surgeon Lee Ming-Che, orthopedist Wu Wen-Tien, surgeon Cheng Tun-Jen and many others. As pioneers, they had to possess skills and resilience far surpassing their colleagues, especially surgeons who could stand their grounds, to successfully perform surgeries in crude circumstances. Thanks to these brave forerunners, who were committed to saving lives without proper equipments and insufficient members, so that the hospital may earn the trust of the community.
Providing Quality Service to Community
Ever since the first day in service, Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital has its emergency room on 24-hour standby. The residents of the rift valley and visiting tourists no longer have to worry about nowhere to go in time of emergency. The soul of the hospital, Dr. Poon Win-Him, reported to Kuanshan in 2002 under the recommendation of Supt. Chen Ing-Ho. In 2003, he assumed the position of vice superintendent to Supt. Wang Ji-Hung, and started in 2005, he became the superintendent of the hospital to this day.
Three years after the hospital was in service, Supt. Poon, on a rare trip with his wife, encountered a unconscious elderly on the roadside. After more than 10 hours of surgery, the elderly was finally out of danger. When his children arrived at the hospital from out of town, they were pleasantly surprised by the quality treatment offered and the cleanliness of the facility. “I can never imagine that our hometown can actually have such a high standard hospital, Tzu Chi truly is taking care of the remote areas regardless of costs,” they said praisingly. Even when faced with hotel fire in early 2011, Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital was capable of receiving and treating the influx of mass burn patients.
As time goes by, the medical equipments such as CT scan and computed radiography, as well as endoscope, arthroscope, and microsurgical apparatuses, are gradually in place. Minimally invasive surgery is essential to the hospital in providing quality treatment to traumatic brain injuries and fractures frequently seen in automobile accidents.
Integrating Charity and Medicine
A decade gone by, Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital has now 62 beds, 7 full-time attending physicians, and a total of 82 staff in 2010, and then 109 staff in 2016, including nurses, medical technicians, and administrative staff. Aside from providing treatment to patients in the hospital, they also organize medical outreach, traveling deep into the mountainous regions, providing medical services to communities deprived of medicine.
For families stricken with poverty, the hospital staff would perform home visits with the Tzu Chi volunteers, checking their living and health conditions, and more often than not, they would also sweep houses, change pipes, fixing roofs, and bring goods and necessities. Whenever disaster occurs, nationally or internationally, Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital would spring into action, initiating fundraisers, joining disaster reliefs, and participate in free clinics and distributions.
While the hospital continues its services at a loss while struggling with shortages of staff, Kuanshan Tzu Chi Hospital is still standing strong as the guardian of Kuanshan, ready to face whatever lies ahead in the coming decade.