Rehabilitation services provide long-distance aid

Updated: Aug 18, 2022 China Daily Print
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When Tamdrin, a rural doctor in Qinghai province, saw parallel bars, resistance cords and exercise balls for the first time in August last year, he had absolutely no idea how to use the equipment.

"At first sight, they looked like toys for kids to me," he said.

However, in the months that followed, he not only learned their function but also used them to aid the rehabilitation of more than 50 patients with hemiplegia-paralysis of one side of the body, usually caused by a stroke and high blood pressure-or rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder of the joints.

"In the past, we would give patients a massage or Tibetan medicinal baths," said Tamdrin, who like many people from the Tibetan ethnic group only uses one name. "There was really nothing else we could do to help them recuperate, except tell them to try moving around more at home."

The introduction of modern rehabilitation equipment in less-developed rural areas has been made possible by local governments, the Ling Feng Foundation and Chinese Medical Volunteers, an initiative aimed at boosting healthcare services in impoverished areas.

So far, about 140 rehabilitation rooms, equipped with a range of basic diagnostic machines and rehabilitation tools, have been set up in rural clinics across the country, including in the provinces of Shaanxi, Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan, according to the foundation.

Meanwhile, experienced doctors from larger hospitals have made videos to provide online tutoring for rural practitioners.

Li Guangqing, a doctor with the department of rehabilitative medicine at Capital Medical University's Xuanwu Hospital in Beijing, visited the rehabilitation room at the health clinic in Drongshok township, where Tamdrin works, as a volunteer doctor this month.

Li, who is also secretary-general of the Beijing Rehabilitation Medical Association, was eager to know if Tamdrin and his fellow doctors had watched the online courses.

"I understood that it could be challenging for rural doctors to go through the 100-plus-hour videos by themselves," he said.

"That's why the program also required professionals like us to come to remote areas in person and get in touch with local healthcare workers."

In Drongshok, there are dozens of hemiplegia patients in need of long-term rehabilitation services, and each year sees six or seven new patients.

According to Li, the first few months after a stroke are the most important period for recovery and also the time when patients see the most improvement.

"It's a manageable number. Tamdrin can send me the patients' information and requests via message apps, and I can offer on-demand therapy guidance," he said.

"If there were more patients, I would probably need to gather a team from Beijing. For now, though, we can take small steps and make improvements that way."

About five hours from Drongshok by road, Drakba Sang, head of the Chido township health clinic, said that since a rehabilitation room was set up in March, about 60 patients have used the facility.

"Awareness is the key," he said. "It took painful efforts for us to go door to door to spread awareness of the significance of rehabilitation therapy, but it was certainly worthwhile."

One example Drakba Sang often quoted in his efforts to persuade people was that of a nun from a nearby monastery.

"She was so feeble at the beginning that it was impossible for her to stand up," he said. "However, after about 10 days of rehabilitation services, her condition had improved so much that she could hold a rice bowl on her own."

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