Mobile medical team helps residents in North China regain sight

A patient gives a thumb up to the mobile medical team after he undergoes a surgery. Photo courtesy of the first outpatient department directly under the provincial government of Hebei Province, which runs the medical team

Thanks to a mobile medical team, a senior resident surnamed Chang in Weizhou county, Zhangjiakou, North China’s Hebei Province, recovered her vision in 2018.

Chang lost her husband and two sons to disease in three years and the grief almost took away her eyesight. Local hospital suggested that Chang go to a major city for surgery, but the great expense was a huge problem for her. Fortunately, the mobile medical team visited Weizhou county in 2018 and successfully completed a surgery for Chang, who is still emotional every time she speaks of the medical aid.

For 15 years, the mobile team staffed with medical professionals in treating cataract from Hebei Province, has traveled about 300,000 kilometers and cured a total of 23,605 impoverished residents suffering from eye problems in Zhangjiakou and other places for free, exempting over 59 million yuan (about $8.5 million) of medical expenses for them.

Parts of the regions in Zhangjiakou are exposed to strong ultraviolet rays, which results in relatively high incidence rate of cataract. As many patients live in remote villages and a quite amount of them are stricken by poverty, they couldn’t afford to take cataract surgeries, which may cost several thousand yuan. Therefore, they had no choice but to let the disease to get worse.

In 2005, the medical team was established under the request of the health department of Hebei Province. Receiving poverty-alleviation fund and an operation van, the team started a long march of medical poverty alleviation.

From June to August every year, the vehicle would travel across the counties in Hebei Province. It stays in each county for five days at most and performs over 40 surgeries every day.

The local government departments would inform the patients in advance, said Wang Yingwei, head nurse of the medical team, adding that some patients who missed the treatment in their counties would even follow the medical team to its next stop.

“Though we were tired from the daily grind, we would still perform surgeries for them who followed us in off hours,” Wang said.

“It’s nothing to us, but if the patients didn’t receive timely treatment, they would face another year of darkness,” said Niu Shihe, head of the mobile medical team.

During the first several years, those who came for the surgeries were patients who had lost their sight for many years, said a member of the medical team.

Due to his eye problem, a senior patient didn’t even have the choice to see his grandson since the latter was born, but thanks to the medical team, his grandson for the first time appeared in his eyes.

Liu Zhefeng has worked for the mobile medical team for 15 years and even after he retired, the 72-year-old medical worker still volunteered to help poverty-stricken residents with the medical team.

A patient from an impoverished household who regains eyesight will alleviate the burden of the family, and might even get rid of poverty and improve the family’s livelihood, said Liu, adding that they want to help as many as possible.

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