Author by: Sense Chen (General Secretary of Taiwan Conference on Religion and Peace, CEO of Taitung St-Mary's Hospital)
“Hospice service” is a concept of restoring the “patient” to a “person". One who gets sick but is still completely of the various needs of the body, mind and spirit. We should not just see his "sickness". Even death is around the corner, we should think much of the patients’ living quality or life quality. In order to promote the standard of the Mainland’s hospice service, in October, 2010, Li Jia Chen Foundation led the superintendents and vice superintends of nearly about 30 hospitals to Taiwan. Their journey went from the most prosperous Taipei Medical Centers all the way to the most remote district hospital in Taitung. To our unexpectedness, they were deeply impressed with the smallest-scale Taitung St. Mary’s Hospital.
In fact, there are only 29 beds, 6 full-time doctors and more than 20 nurses in Taitung St. Mary’s Hospital. The manpower is insufficient, with aging equipment and for lack of resources. The hospital is devoted to the spirit of “serving the poor”. In the past fifty years, it has never made both ends meet. But is still animated! Every day the working staff is busy taking care of over six hundred beds of patients in and outside of the hospital, not only medical care, but also medical education, opening a organic food restaurant, farming, the implementation of the health community and doing art therapy and the like. Taitung St. Mary Hospital is recognized as the medical paradigm in Taiwan. It has “love” that many big hospitals do not have and that money cannot buy, and that mainland medical treatment is very lacking in. Taitung St. Mary Hospital is not only “patient-0centered” but also “people-centered”. St. Mary’s Hospital does not give up any single person!
The population of Taiwan is 23 millions. In Taiwan there are nearly 20 medical centers (tertiary hospitals) and all of them are concentrated in the densely populated major cities. There are two hundred thirty thousand people in Taitung, consisting of six tribes. Taitung is long and narrow, mountainous and many off-coast islands. There are a serious shortage of medical resources and unequal distribution. In 1961, the Swiss fathers and Irish sisters came to Taitung. They couldn’t bear seeing women bearing babies in the fields and poor sanitary conditions caused high mortality. They began to raise money abroad to build St. Mary Hospital, introduced physicians and equipment to Taiwan and the hospital started with obstetric. Besides, they trained local nurses to act as “Fake nurses without licenses”. More than half of Taitung babies have been born at St. Mary’s Hospital!
In 1979, St. Mary’s Hospital began to offer "home care" service to serve people along the one hundred and seventy kilometers of coastline. We do as Teresa said: "Others do not go, we go; others do not do, we do." We also do the service of meal service for elderly people living alone, with names written on their lunch boxes, because the foods that those senior citizens need vary. The lunch distributors sometimes need to help the elderly people with daily necessities and they even seek community resources for them. The hospital has only a social worker but there are a lot of “fake social workers”. Someone proposed charge for this in order to avoid the patient excessive demands. But sisters firmly replied: "Those people have no money to see a doctor; how can we charge our services?”
In 1995, Taiwan put the “health insurance system” into practice. Besides economic barriers of the majority of people to medical treatment, not everyone can afford to see doctors. Those poor people are the objects of St. Mary’s Hospital services. St. Mary's Hospital is still just taking care of patients and continues doing a poorly efficient and profitable service regardless of gains and losses. At this time health care system also set off the "enterprise" and "market-oriented" trend. St. Mary’s Hospital of the public service character began to fail to make ends meet and St. Mary Hospital showed the embarrassment behind the times! In 2003, the hospital was too poor to pay the salaries of the staff. The hospital closed the most prestigious obstetric, shut down the operating rooms. And the surgeons left the hospital with tear in the eyes for lack of the patients. The sisters held medical Contribution Award Medals to raise money. Rumor had it that St. Mary’s Hospital would be closed.
However St. Mary’s Hospital did not think whether the hospital would go on running but “What is the purpose of the church’s establishment of the hospital? Is there a necessity of existence of St. Mary's Hospital? What is the need of the local population?” There are about six hundred people in Taitung who die of cancer every year. The patients have to endure a long run around with the pain of torture and even die without dignity. Once when a father died, the funeral home could send no headliner small trucks to carry the remains. The other patient of terminal cancer had to spend six hours every week going to and coming back from the big city to receive treatment. When dying he questioned the sister: "Why does Taitung have no hospice services?”
A father and a rascal reminded us with their last lives: “The living need respect and the dying also need respect.” So, St. Mary’s Hospital has decided to do the higher cost of hospice services by way of the whole person, the whole team, the whole family, the whole term and the whole community to care for terminal cancer patients about body, mind, and spirit. This concept has won the social enthusiastic support. The next year, St. Mar’s Hospital founded first hospital hospice services in Taitung. At the same time, St. Mary’s Hospital offered "home hospice services” out of the hospital. The hospital reached the ratio of 1:8 of the world level. St. Mary’s Hospital smoothly transformed from the hospital of “good birth” to the hospital "good death". And the hospital held “Good doctor preparatory Camp” to offer good opportunity to the medical students to experience health care in remote areas so that they can learn to be good friends to the patients before they become good doctors. In 2007, St. Mary’s Hospital established “soul healing garden”. By doing so, the patients have the opportunity to leave the ward to the lush garden to feel the energy of nature, to experience life in the course of the disease, and thus to transform the intrinsic value of the individual.
But not to get sick does not mean being healthy. More than 80% of the population in the world is seemingly healthy, but they have the problem of being in the state of “three high” or having “insomnia”. They are what we called "sub-healthy”. Taiwan's health authorities have launched many slogans to encourage people to eat vegetables every day. Every meal needs to have yellow, green and red colored vegetables. “Sports 333” means people should take exercises or do sports three days a week and for thirty minutes each time and let heart beat per minute up to one hundred and thirty. To know is one thing, and to do is another. More than 70% of the medical staff cannot make it. They often say they don’t have enough time for rest, let alone, give up smoking and drinking. According to the 1995 statistics, Taitung’s morality (whatever cause it is) per 100,000 population is much higher than that In Taiwan. The ratio of the patients with malignant tumors is also the highest in Taiwan. Their average life expectancy is ten years less than the citizens of Taipei. The ratio of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases is also high. The life span of people is rather short in the beautiful places with good water and pretty mountains. We feel doubtful. Besides treating diseases, can’t the hospitals help people live more healthily?
Thus in 2008, St. Mar’s Hospital established “St. Mary’s Health Hall”, providing high-fiber, low-fat, less-salt, non-artificial additives delicious healthy cuisine, with a view to implementing the hospital staff health promotion, and the hospital even will go to the tribe to help the original residents to create healthy environment. But the local aboriginals hear the hospital will go to help them live healthier, their Intuitive reaction is to expect us not to there. They said: "You come to tell us not to smoke, nor to drink, nor to chew betel, but those are our happiest things.” Indeed it is not easy to force other people to change their habits. The success rate is very low unless the parties themselves are willing to change. Later, we changed to diabetes care and to the regular sugar control camps regularly to accompany residents to live a healthy life. A year later, a tribal village in Taitung established the first Diabetic patient group. Then St. Mary’s Hospital won the first place “Benchmarking Award” out of the 454 diabetic patient groups in Taiwan. At the sane year, the hospital also received the highest honor of Taiwan's medical “group medical Contribution Award”.
In 2009, St. Mary’s Hospital introduced “Aroma therapy” to help the elderly and patients with regular oil massage. The hospital was devoted to the rescue of “88 Flood”. And the hospital established "St. Mary’s Health Farm” to offer the victims with job opportunities in the “mode” of “work instead of rescue” so that the victims have become farmers and begin produce “natural, safe, non-toxic" natural ingredients. In this way the foods from the land to the table are healthy. The work also rediscovers the vitality of the victims’ lives and the victims are willing to lead a healthy life!
As Sister Mali De Teresa took care of the dying people in India, the spirit of “service for the poor” of Taitung St. Mary’s Hospital is precious in today's profit-oriented capitalist society. In fact, the poor are not only without money. Any poor person without healthy body, mind, and spirit is the service object of St. Mary Hospital. Medical care should not only treat the "diseases", and the hospital should not just cure "patients". The medical staff should walk out of the hospitals and go into the communities to help the sick and the non-sick to be in good health. This is the practice of "hospitals without walls”.
Because of love, we cooperate to do the beautiful things. When we do the right things, there will be the right force in! We are looking forward to more cooperation across the Taiwan Strait to benefit more Chinese people and to enable them to the health of the body, mind, and spirit!