Thursday, Dec 14th

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Friday, 03 November 2017 00:00

Medical Outreaches to the Mountain Natives

Written by  Tzu Chi Documenting Team, Kuching / Translated by Ong Mooi Lin

4WD vehicles are needed to travel through the rugged road to reach the long-houses in remote areas. [Photograph by Lim Heng Lai]

It is challenging to organize free clinics in remote mountainous areas with bumpy and rugged roads leading up to the mountains. With help from 39 well-trained drivers and their 4WD vehicles, TIMA members arrived at the remote villages to offer free medical services to the villagers.


Due to its remoteness, insufficient medical facilities and transportation costs that are too high for the villagers to afford, they usually do not seek treatment for minor illnesses, and eventually, their illnesses would turn critical. Even the monthly visit by the flying doctors, as arranged by the government, can only provide general medical treatments for common illnesses.

Hence, on November 4 and 5, 2017, Tzu Chi volunteers in Kuching, Sarawak, joined efforts with TIMA members and Tzu Chi volunteers from KL & Selangor, as well as, medical personnel from the local government hospital, to provide free medical services to the Iban natives living in remote mountains.

On the afternoon of November 3, volunteers gathered at Tzu Chi Kuching Liaison Office, before departing for Lachau on buses. From Lachau, they were transferred to 4WD vehicles prepared by Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu, to Kampung Muding, one of the villages where the free clinic was held.

The 4WD club, founded on the principles of doing good deeds and giving back to society, is always happy to provide assistance to charitable organizations. The Club President, Tie Sing Ung commented, “This is the first time we work together with Tzu Chi. Everything was well planned and properly arranged by volunteers. Their manners in handling matters and attitude towards others are worth learning.”

The team arrived at Kampung Muding in the evening. The quiet long house became lively as the volunteers and TIMA members began preparing for the free clinic.

Prevention is better than cure

To suit the villagers’ needs, there were Western and Chinese medical treatments, dental care, healthcare education, and so on. As most of the villagers work as farmers, they have to be in a bending posture for long hours each day, resulting in joint pain. As for the children, although there are regular dental check-ups arranged by the schools, they lacked oral care knowledge and many had tooth decays. In addition, breast examinations and pap-smear tests for females, and prostate test for males, were also provided for early detection and cure.

On the early sunny morning of November 4, villagers arrived eagerly for medical treatments, hoping to relieve their bodily pain and improve their health.

Daughter of the long-house leader, Rosita Mansor, has many children, and the youngest one gave her the most worries. She said tearfully, “My youngest son was infected with Leptospirosis half a year ago. Even though he was admitted for treatment on time, he lost his appetite after discharge, and felt like vomiting at the smell of food. He has been surviving on nutritional milk powder and had stopped schooling since the incident.”

Rosita remarked that it is not easy for her son to return for follow-up treatments as the clinic is a four-hour journey from home, through rugged road, and there is also the weather to consider.

Upon learning that TIMA members and Tzu Chi volunteers came all the way to provide medical services to the long-house residents, Rosita expressed happily, “Finally the villagers’ health is taken care of, especially dental care. My only wish is for my youngest son to get better after receiving treatment.”

After Chinese Physician, Ong Boon Hock felt the boy’s pulse and performed acupuncture treatment on him, the boy’s cheeks turned rosy. Rosita was relieved and smiled upon seeing the results. Physician Ong explained to her that her son had just recovered from a serious illness and is still weak. He prescribed some Chinese medicine and offered some dietary guidelines for the boy, as well as, taught him belly breathing technique to improve his oxygen intake and increase his lung capacity.

Vow to cater to the medical needs of village folks

Due to the distance and bumpy ride to the town, the poor villagers would just bear with their discomfort and wait for the monthly visit by the flying doctors. However, due to insufficient medical facilities, the flying doctors could only provide medications for hypertension, diabetes and so on, but there are no further medical check-ups or screenings. Worse still, when the flying doctors have to postpone their visiting schedules due to some other appointments, the sick villagers have to endure another month of pain.

Alexander’s house was destroyed in a fire when he was five, leaving his family penniless without food and shelter, let alone medical care. As such, he could understand the pain of the villagers, who could not afford the transportation costs to town for medical treatments. Some of them even died of prolonged illnesses without proper medical treatments. Hence, Alexander was determined to obtain a medical qualification since young, and finally, he became a medical assistant officially in 2007. He also turned his house into a clinic to serve the villagers.

Alexander has to spend about six hours travelling to the government clinic to replenish the medication supplies on a monthly basis. He felt helpless at times over insufficient medications, and unavailability of new medical equipment to replace the broken ones after applying for them for many years.

Alexander is a full-time pepper and vegetable farmer, apart from being a medical assistant. The villagers only need to pay him 50 cents for attending to their illnesses each time. This amount is just to cover his transport allowance to town monthly, to replenish his medicinal supplies. For those villagers who are unable to pay, he would even offer them financial assistance. He said, “Occasionally, there would be people knocking on my door in the middle of the night to seek help, treatment or medications.” Even though it is taxing for him, he said firmly, “My family’s support and the joy I experienced when the villagers recovered from their illnesses keep me going to safeguard their health.” He looked forward to more Tzu Chi free clinics at remote villages.

Came a long way for medical treatment

After completing the free clinic at Kampung Muding at around 2 pm, the team set off for Kampung Tuba, where the second free clinic was held.

Upon their arrival at around 7 pm, volunteers then worked together to transfer the luggage, cookware, medical equipment and other items into the long-house. After dinner, the villagers performed a lively traditional dance of the Iban people. TIMA members and volunteers enjoyed the performance and joined in the dance. It felt like a family gathering filled with singing and laughter.

Volunteers also seized the opportunity to share about Tzu Chi and its charitable missions, hoping to instil kindness in the villagers’ hearts.

At 7 am on November 5, the free clinic at Kampung Tuba commenced despite the rain. When the sky cleared at about 9 am, the villagers started arriving one after another. Some villagers journeyed on land and water transportation to reach the venue around noon. Seeing them drenched in sweat and looking tired, volunteers quickly offered them some drinks and food to fill their stomachs.

Mayak Anak Li, who earns a meagre income, could not afford the transportation costs to hospitals in Sri Aman or Kuching for follow-up treatments. Hence, she seized the opportunity for treatment. She said gratefully, “I wish there will be a few more free clinics in a year, with medical specialists from different fields coming here to offer their services to safeguard the villagers’ health. The free clinic is very precious to us who live in a remote area and make a living by farming.”

A long-house resident, Anyut Anak Linggir, started to experience blurred and double vision on his left eye over a year ago. Even though he had been to hospital in town for check-ups and applied medicated eye-drops, they were ineffective. Physician Ong attended to him with acupuncture treatment. After having his first acupuncture treatment, he said with joy, “Thank you doctor. I can see clearly now, and there is no more double images! This is a finger of mine!” He happily shook hands with Physician Ong and thanked him.

Physician Ong was relieved that he had treated Anyut in time, for delayed treatment would jeopardize his vision, with the possibility of him turning blind. He hoped that Anyut would follow his advice and perform eye exercises daily to improve his vision to avoid future relapse.

Although challenging to organize free clinics in remote villages, it is a good learning experience. Overall, the medical outreaches have achieved the expected results. Hopefully, there will be further improvements in the future to benefit villagers in more remote areas.

 

 

The sky had turned dark when the team arrived at Kampung Muding. Everyone worked together to unload the medical equipment and other items, and make the necessary arrangements to ensure the smooth operation of the free clinic the following morning. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]   Due to geographical constraint and insufficient medical facilities, many of the natives did not seek treatments for minor illnesses. [Photograph by Leong Chian Yee]

The sky had turned dark when the team arrived at Kampung Muding. Everyone worked together to unload the medical equipment and other items, and make the necessary arrangements to ensure the smooth operation of the free clinic the following morning. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]
 
Due to geographical constraint and insufficient medical facilities, many of the natives did not seek treatments for minor illnesses. [Photograph by Leong Chian Yee]
 
Volunteers set up various medical divisions to accommodate the villagers’ needs. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]   Rosita was overjoyed to see that her son’s cheeks had turned rosy. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]

Volunteers set up various medical divisions to accommodate the villagers’ needs. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]
 
 
Rosita was overjoyed to see that her son’s cheeks had turned rosy. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]
 
Mayak hoped that there will be specialists of different medical fields partaking in the free clinic to help safeguard the health of the villagers. [Photograph by Leong Chian Yee]   Anyut expressed his gratitude to Chinese Physician, Ong Boon Hock for curing his vision. [Photograph by Fu Oi Jong]

Mayak hoped that there will be specialists of different medical fields partaking in the free clinic to help safeguard the health of the villagers. [Photograph by Leong Chian Yee]
 
 
Anyut expressed his gratitude to Chinese Physician, Ong Boon Hock for curing his vision. [Photograph by Fu Oi Jong]
 
Empathized with the suffering of the sick villagers and feeling sad that some of them died of prolonged illnesses, Alexander succeeded in obtaining a medical qualification to serve the villagers. [Photograph by Fu Oi Jong]   President of Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu, Tie Sing Ung, expressed that the club was founded with the principles of carrying out kind deeds and repay society. Hence, they are most willing to offer help to charitable organizations. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]

Empathized with the suffering of the sick villagers and feeling sad that some of them died of prolonged illnesses, Alexander succeeded in obtaining a medical qualification to serve the villagers. [Photograph by Fu Oi Jong]
 
 
President of Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu, Tie Sing Ung, expressed that the club was founded with the principles of carrying out kind deeds and repay society. Hence, they are most willing to offer help to charitable organizations. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]