TCM gains pop­u­lar­ity with Czech pa­tients

Shanghai Daily - - CULTURE - Zhang Qian qigong daoyin daoyin bad­u­an­jin yi­jin­jing yi­jin­jing,

AChi­nese doc­tor in white coat checks a pa­tient’s tongue, feels his pulse, asks about his phys­i­cal con­di­tion and pre­scribes treat­ment ac­cord­ingly such as acupunc­ture, herbal medicine and or ex­er­cises.

It’s a com­mon scene at a Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine hos­pi­tal in China, but this has also been rou­tine at the Re­search Cen­ter for TCM in Hradec Kralove, the Czech Repub­lic, for the past three years.

The cen­ter, founded by Shang­hai Shuguang Hos­pi­tal at­tached to Shang­hai Uni­ver­sity of TCM and the Fac­ulty Hos­pi­tal Hradec Kralove at­tached to Charles Uni­ver­sity in 2015, is the first TCM cen­ter sup­ported by the gov­ern­ment in Cen­tral and Eastern Europe, as a cru­cial com­po­nent of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

The cen­ter, the first of its kind in a pub­lic hos­pi­tal in the West, is ex­pected to lead to bet­ter med­i­cal ex­changes, recog­ni­tion of TCM by the Western pub­lic and pos­si­bly TCM-re­lated laws in the fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to Zhou Hua, pres­i­dent of Shang­hai Shuguang Hos­pi­tal.

Of­fi­cially opened in June 2015, the cen­ter has a team of TCM doc­tors from Shuguang Hos­pi­tal, doc­tors and nurses from the Fac­ulty Hos­pi­tal Hradec Kralove and trans­la­tors. The Hradec Kralove doc­tors col­lect ba­sic in­for­ma­tion from pa­tients and then trans­fer them to the Chi­nese doc­tors for fur­ther di­ag­no­sis. And the trans­la­tors help with the com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the Chi­nese doc­tors and pa­tients.

The cen­ter has re­ceived around 26,000 pa­tients from all over the Czech Repub­lic for the past three years, with ail­ments that have in­cluded headaches, tini­tus, si­nusi­tis, ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome, Crohn’s dis­ease, chronic cough­ing, ir­reg­u­lar pe­ri­ods and in­fer­til­ity.

“It is not a big num­ber com­pared with what we have in Shang­hai, con­sid­er­ing the lim­ited hands there. But a good rep­u­ta­tion of Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine and TCM doc­tors has been grad­u­ally shaped, which may pave the way for fur­ther pos­si­ble moves,” said Zhou.

Ac­cord­ing to Hradec Kralove fig­ures, the ef­fec­tive rate of TCM treat­ments at the cen­ter av­er­ages 55 per­cent, and around 80-90 per­cent of pa­tients feel pos­i­tive about treat­ment, ei­ther find­ing their ail­ments gone or symp­toms re­lieved.

As the long­est-serv­ing Chi­nese doc­tor at the cen­ter since 2016, 42-year-old Guan Xin has wit­nessed that pa­tients’ at­ti­tudes to­ward TCM have changed from cu­rios­ity to trust.

“About 90 per­cent of my early pa­tients at the cen­ter were hav­ing their first try of TCM, though some of them had heard about the mys­te­ri­ous medicine from the East,” Guan said.

At first when Guan asked them to show their tongues, some el­derly pa­tients con­sid­ered it an im­po­lite ges­ture. But once told about TCM’s be­lief in a per­son’s phys­i­cal con­di­tion re­flect­ing on their tongues, they were happy to do so.

Suf­fer­ers from chronic prob­lems made up the ma­jor­ity of pa­tients who came to the TCM cen­ter for help, ac­cord­ing to Guan. Pains in the head, joints and mus­cles ac­counted for around half the to­tal num­ber.

“Those pa­tients first came for a try and kept re­vis­it­ing for ef­fec­tive re­lief,” Guan said.

One of Guan’s pa­tients was a woman in her 50s who had suf­fered headache for more than 20 years. Tak­ing painkillers was the only ef­fec­tive re­lief. Yet, af­ter just 15 TCM treat­ments, she has been free of pain for two years.

A male pa­tient drives more than three hours to the cen­ter for a 20-minute treat­ment, as it in­stantly cures his mi­graine.

As a master of (lit­er­ally ten­don chang­ing ex­er­cise), Guan also started a

class once a week, dur­ing which he teaches tra­di­tional Chi­nese health­ben­e­fit­ing ex­er­cises such as

and tai chi, as ad­di­tions to acupunc­ture and med­i­ca­tion. A young man from Prague suf­fer­ing di­ges­tive prob­lems for two years found the ex­er­cises ef­fec­tive in not only cur­ing his stom­achache, but also his hay fever.

Chi­nese doc­tor Ma Wen, 37, who com­pleted a one-year res­i­dency at the cen­ter in July, said: “Many Czech pa­tients seem to know clearly what hap­pens in a TCM clinic, and most of them keep very good com­pli­ance to doc­tor’s sug­ges­tion.”

Not cov­ered by na­tional med­i­cal in­surance, each course of di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment at the TCM cen­ter costs about 5,000 Czech crowns (US$230), ac­count­ing for about a sixth of res­i­dents’ av­er­age monthly in­come. Yet, de­mand ex­ceeds sup­ply, with ev­ery Chi­nese doc­tor re­ceiv­ing 15-30 pa­tients a day. New pa­tients need to book six to 12 months in ad­vance to get an ap­point­ment.

With peo­ple com­ing with all kinds of prob­lems, the TCM doc­tors are mas­ter­ing di­ag­no­sis and treat­ments in al­most ev­ery as­pect, such as in­ter­nal medicine, surgery, gy­ne­col­ogy, der­ma­tol­ogy, or­tho­pe­dics and trau­ma­tol­ogy.

“To some ex­tent, the pa­tients are ac­tu­ally help­ing we Chi­nese doc­tors re­turn­ing to the orig­i­nal TCM prac­tices as a gen­eral medicine tak­ing hu­man body as an in­tegrity, though sub­di­vi­sion de­part­ments pre­vail in most TCM hos­pi­tals in China to­day,” said Guan. “It is a chal­lenge, but also a great plat­form to per­fect our ca­pa­bil­ity as a real TCM doc­tor.”

The avail­abil­ity of TCM herbs can be a prob­lem for the cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to Ma. “It is never a rare case to find im­por­tant in­gre­di­ents for cer­tain clas­sic em­pir­i­cal for­mula miss­ing, as they are not per­mit­ted in the EU mar­ket,” said Ma. “We some­times try re­plac­ing them with other avail­able herbs with sim­i­lar func­tion though not that strongly ef­fec­tive. Yet some times, we had no choice but give up herbal medicine ther­apy and make do with acupunc­ture.”

Chi­nese doc­tors at the cen­ter are try­ing to fig­ure out bet­ter treat­ments for the more dif­fi­cult cases they en­counter by re­search­ing the TCM clas­sics, con­sult­ing with ex­perts in China and hold­ing dis­cus­sions with their Czech col­leagues.

The ef­fec­tive­ness of TCM prac­tices, a grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of “green medicine” world­wide, and the ac­cu­mu­lated med­i­cal ex­changes be­tween China and the rest of the world in the past 20 years may all have played a role in the good re­cep­tion of TCM doc­tors in the Czech Repub­lic, ac­cord­ing to Zhou.

Though there are still many ob­sta­cles for TCM prac­tices in Euro­pean coun­ties with few re­lated laws and poli­cies avail­able, there has been progress. Ac­cord­ing to Zhou, a law on pre­pared Chi­nese herbal medicine is pend­ing ap­proval in the Czech Repub­lic, thanks to the TCM cen­ter in Hradec Kralove.

A new build­ing with 30 hos­pi­tal beds and a se­ries of TCM fa­cil­i­ties will be com­pleted next year as a new lo­ca­tion for the TCM cen­ter to serve more pa­tients. More Chi­nese doc­tors will be se­lected to work there.

“Tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine is a trea­sure trove not just for Chi­nese, but the world as well,” said Zhou.

“I hope that the TCM cen­ter at Hradec Kralove will be­come a base from which TCM will be ac­cessed, re­ceived and rec­og­nized by the or­di­nary Euro­pean, and thus drive re­lated law and pol­icy mak­ing which would en­able TCM to ben­e­fit more peo­ple. And of course, feed­back from Euro­pean pa­tients, doc­tors and gov­ern­ment may also en­lighten us about pos­si­ble di­rec­tion for fur­ther TCM de­vel­op­ment. I am op­ti­mistic.”


A Chi­nese doc­tor from Shuguang Hos­pi­tal uses acupunc­ture ther­apy to treat a Czech pa­tient.

A Chi­nese doc­tor teaches a Czech pa­tient an ex­er­cise to aid her re­cov­ery.

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