From 29th to 31st October 2012, 8 members of the Singapore’s Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) flown to Taiwan with the main purpose of visiting Tzu Chi Hospital in Hualien. The group also took the opportunity to visit Master Cheng Yen at the nearby Jing Si Abode on the final day of their visit.
The AIC is set up by the Ministry of Health with the responsibility of overseeing, coordinating and improving the Long Term-Care Sector. To achieve their mission of “Achieve the best health outcomes for our patients”, they:
- Empower clients and coordinate access to appropriate care
- Enable stakeholders to strengthen the primary and community care sectors
- Enhance collaboration to create a well-connected healthcare system
Since July 2011, Singapore’s Tzu Chi Free Clinc and Free Health Screening Centre has been working together with the AIC on clinical home visits. When an elderly patient is discharged from the hospital, the AIC will refer the patient to Tzu Chi who will then follow up with further medical care such as delivering medicine and cleaning of wounds. With good collaboration and communication on both sides, they ensure that the patient is on the road to recovery.
The 3 days visit to Hualien was led by AIC CEO Dr Jason Cheah. The purpose of this visit is to understand how Tzu Chi conducts its clinical home visits and its humanitarian spirit in the Mission of medicine.
The first day began with a visit to the Jing Si Hall in Hualien, where the group understands how Tzu Chi started in the early days and later developed into an international NGO. In the afternoon, the AIC team held a dialogue with the staff of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital. Tzu Chi Medical Mission CEO, Dr. Lin Chin-Lon, Superintendent of the Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, Dr.Ruey-Ho Kao and Hsu Wen-Lin, deputy Superintendent of the hospital were present at the dialogue session.
The AIC team also visited the Preventive Medicine Centre, the Heart Lotus palliative care unit and the Elderly Day Care Centre. The design of these places are unique from Singapore Hospitals, as the hospital has design the wards to allow more sunlight to penetrate though, thereby brings a sense of warmness into the area. The group is also surprised that the Heart Lotus Palliative care unit is even equipped with a living room, a home-styled bed and prayer rooms for different religions. The Elderly Day Care Centre which operates on non profit basis was something inspiring too.
Doctor Tan Weng Mooi from AIC’s Community Mental Health Division complement the design and ambience of the preventive medical Centre: “The anxiety of the patients while waiting for their check-up can be reduced through the beautiful flower arrangement in the centre.”
The next day, the AIC team has an in depth discussion with their counterpart in Tzu Chi Hospital on the subject of preventive care, clinical home visits carried out in their respective countries.
Deputy Superintendent Dr Hsu Wen-Lin and head of department Dr Ye Ri-Yi shared about preventive medicine such as preventive cancer screening and promoting health checks for hospital staff. Adding on, Deputy Superintendent Dr Hong-Wen Liu and staff nurse Lin Jin-Lan also shared on how homecare services can better support family doctors help the needy patients.
It was a lively session as the medical backgrounds and operating procedures are different in the two countries. After the session, the team was invited to join in a clinical home visit and visit to a nursing home for the elderly to have a first-hand experience on how trust and care is build up between the medical staff and the patients.
The AIC team also visited Tzu Chi University to understand about the “Silent Mentors” programme and the contributions made by these “Silent Mentors” at the final journey of their lives. The programme deeply touched the visitors, as compared to Singapore; the cadavers used in Singapore Medical School for their Anatomy studies are only available through unclaimed bodies from death.
Accompanied by veteran hospital volunteer Sister Yen Hui-mei, the team has the opportunity to visit an indigenous community at Jing-mei. For the past 15 years, besides providing medical services, Tzu Chi volunteers has managed to build trust and friendships with the aboriginal people and supported them in building up their skills in traditional crafts.
With such a fulfilling trip, the AIC team is left with a deep impression of Tzu Chi’s medical mission. All of them agreed that they have a change in perspective on traditional Buddhism after hearing the story of how Tzu Chi was started by 30 housewives saving 50 cents everyday. Ms Zheng Wan Er from AIC said that she hopes to put what she learned in her work and serve the community with determination.
On the last day, the AIC team visited Master Cheng Yen at the Jing Si Abode to share with her on what they had learned for the past 3 days and the inspirations that they have gained from the visit. Asking for Master Cheng Yen’s advice, for which she replied that a leader must care for those under him or her regardless of which activity or event he or she is trying to promote, and not just talk without action. Most importantly, the leader must lead by example, so as to win the hearts of those under him or her.
When asked about how can one promote and implement the humanitarian spirit found in Tzu Chi’s Medical Mission in a totally different country, the Master encourages the team to bring out the love in everyone and have a heart of gratitude at every moment. The values of love can then be attained through love and collective effort of everyone involved.