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Hospital in Need

April, 2006
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Situated in a picturesque alpine valley 4000 meters above sea level, and 1000 kilometers west of Chengdu, the newly c24p16-2ompleted Dzogchen  Brilliant Gem Philanthropic Hospital sits like a jewel among the snowcapped mountains of eastern Tibet, at the far west border of Sichuan Province.

  “It takes two solid days of driving, mostly on dirt roads, to get there,” recalled James Heinritz, managing director of Westwood Commercial Group. The hospital is part of Dzogchen Monastery, which was originally founded in 1685. During a visit to Dzogchen last summer, Heinritz was told that the monastery had completed construction of a hospital building, but still lacked any equipment, furniture, basic necessities and medical supplies. Heinritz offered to “ask around” when he returned to Beijing and see what support he could find for the project.

  That simple offer grew into Mr. Heinritz becoming the hospital’s director of development, coordinating a group volunteers like himself throughout China, and soliciting donations of medical equipment and money. “The hospital was built by the lamas of the Dzogchen Monastery so that all the lamas and people in the Kham region of Tibet could receive basic health care and routine health screenings,” said Heinritz.

  24p16-4The three-story building has 20 rooms, which can house 12 to 14 doctors and staff, as well as 30 to 40 patients. More than 500 lamas travel to the monastery every summer from around the Kham region to attend annual teachings. Almost all are expected to receive care, in addition to people who live within easy traveling distance of the monastery, a general population of almost 15,000 people.

   Common diseases treated at the monastery and nearby villages include bacterial infections of the lung and digestive systems, general nutritional deficiencies, children’s health issues, skin conditions, the common cold, and chronic pain. With increasing numbers of visitors and residents in the area, Heinritz sees that issues of water quality, sewage, trash, and poor personal hygiene and health education are becoming problematic and require local education and training for proper health management.

  Dzogchen Monastery is one of the main seats of the Nyingma School, the original tradition of Buddhism established in Tibet when Buddhism first came to Tibet from India. Dzogchen Monastery serves as the spiritual, civic and educational center for thousands of lamas and lay people alike. The monastery’s senior abbot, Baimagesang Rinpoche, directly oversees Dzogchen Monastery and its 300-plus branch monasteries.

  The monastery would prefer to give the building to a qualified foreign agency (NGO) in exchange for the agency taking over all management, operation and equipping of the hospital. The alternative is for the monastery to self-manage the facility and seek donations for labor, equipment and financing. “Much progress has been made on the second option, but the monastery still hopes that an NGO can be found to take over the project,” said Heinritz.24p16-3

  According to the development plan, Dzogchen Hospital will officially open this August, but only for 4-5 weeks so that many of the initial problems of setting up the hospital can be easily worked out. The hospital will be open from July to September in 2007, and from June to November from 2008 onwards.

  “It is 20 degrees Celsius on the warmest days of summer, while in winter it averages minus 30 degrees, so we only plan to be open during the warm months,” said the director. “However, we are looking for a way to tap the area’s underground thermal springs as a free way to heat the buildings in the winter”, he said. “If that can be done, the hospital could be open all year.”

  In the first year, one Tibetan medicine doctor, 2 Western medicine doctors, one Chinese medicine doctor and a nurse will serve at the hospital. Services offered will include blood testing, stool testing, drip IV’s, dental care, eye examinations, setting broken bones, ultrasounds, ECG’s and x-rays. This year’s goal is to treat 700 to 800 patients.

  Capital requirements for the first year will be 1,380,000 yuan (US$170,400). This includes investment for basic equipment, consumables and medicine. Total fixed costs will be 328,000 yuan (US$40,000). The total budget for the first three years (July 2006 to June 2009) will be 3,000,000 yuan (US$370,370). The hospital’s fund-raising effort is just underway and it is in need of more donations.

  “The monastery takes care of so many people, it is always in need of more money, so we hope to increase the public’s awareness of this project to bring in more sponsors. And of course we couldn’t do this at all without the hard work and support of our volunteers,” said Heinritz.

  “We are working with UNESCO to develop a program that will bring in volunteers to provide some basic health training to the area’s women and children. We hope tIMG_3138o later expand that program to include community health planning and environmental education. We will also have another program to train local doctors and nurses.”

  Heinritz said the intention behind the hospital is not only to help the local people, but also to create a model program that can be copied at the monastery’s branch monasteries and other small communities in the Kham region.

  “This is an important project that will help a lot of people. We are doing this step by step and letting the final design unfold naturally,” he concluded.

For more information, please visit: www.zuoqinsi.com or contact James Heinritz at Dzogchen.Hospital@gmail.com.

By Xing Yangjian

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