A group of Taiwanese doctors and other specialists have just completed a 10-day medical mission in eastern India, where they worked to warm the hearts of local residents in the winter.
The 20-member mission was composed of doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and volunteers who arrived in India on Jan. 20 to provide medical services to locals suffering from lower back pain, arthritis, high blood pressure and gum disease — the most commonly seen diseases in Sikkim state and Darjeeling in West Bengal state.
Chen Chih-fu (陳志福), 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.
Based on its five-year experience in that area, the team also provided some basic training to local health 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 correctly and other oral hygiene practices. They brought 3,600 toothbrushes with them as gifts for patients and those with gum disease.
Two Chi Mei Medical Center staff members took the opportunity to assess the feasibility of stationing a small medical team at the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center (TRSHC).
Lee Ying-li (李穎俐), a specialist at Chi Mei, said X-ray and other basic facilities were 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 this summer. It will be the first overseas medical clinic staffed by Taiwanese volunteer doctors and nurses for at least eight months a year.
The Taiwanese team worked in temperatures of between 5oC and 6oC in the daytime and below 0oC at night.
The cold weather was a big test for the volunteers, some of whom were “frozen awake,” as no heaters were available in their rooms.
The volunteers, all of whom covered their own costs, had to travel on makeshift paths as some of the main roads were blocked by landslides.
At one point, Chen said, they had to drive on a makeshift road along a cliff in Darjeeling, as political strife in the region forced them to change routes and travel at night.
Sometimes they had to travel a long way to reach a service point, so they had to depart before daybreak and take naps along the way.
However, when they saw the waiting Tibetan patients, Chen said, they immediately forgot their fatigue and began working in good spirits.
Chen Tung-tai (陳東台), 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 more than starch, hot chili and salt.”
However, all the difficulties and harsh conditions quickly became irrelevant when they saw the grateful smiles on the faces of the 1,500 patients in six locations they helped during the 10-day mission, the volunteers said.
While some of the group arrived in New Delhi on Saturday night, most of the team returned home on Sunday.