Chinese doctors finding success at Pakistan center
On the edge of the Gwadar port that juts out into the Arabian Sea sits a low-rise building in bright red paint that is distinct from the complex of dusty adobe houses surrounding it.
Each day, a number of local Pakistanis clad in traditional clothing and Chinese workers based in the southeastern port city of Pakistan visit the establishment, a medical center built by the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, the public fundraising arm of the Red Cross Society of China.
Since its inauguration in May 2017, three teams of Chinese medical workers have served in the center, with each group consisting of eight to 13 doctors and nurses from two hospitals affiliated to Fudan University in Shanghai and the Beijing Red Cross Emergency Rescue Center.
While each group of medical personnel is usually stationed for six months, Hu Cheng'en, a general surgeon from the Huashan Hospital of Fudan University and the captain of the third team that arrived in mid-January, has delayed his scheduled departure from Pakistan for several months.
"The fourth group of medical workers had to postpone their planned trip due to uncontrollable circumstances and will not come in until later this month," said Hu, 44. "I have chosen to stay longer along with another colleague so that healthcare services at the center won't be halted, and I can help with handing over operations to our successors."
Over the past two years, the center has gained increasing significance as one of the three pillars of the healthcare system in Gwadar, a city of 80,000 residents that has drawn investment into its burgeoning port while constantly suffering from armed conflicts.
"Before the China-funded medical center was established, there were two major medical institutions in the city-one situated in the city center and staffed by about 10 medics, and the other under the administration of the local military," Hu said.
"The first group of Chinese doctors had to start from scratch and cope with scarce medical equipment and drugs," he said, adding that language barriers and the stagnant flow of information had resulted in low attendance of local Pakistani people.
The second phase of medical assistance, from May 2018 through the end of last year, drew a larger number of patients thanks to improved infrastructure, word-of-mouth promotion and the addition of three interpreters appointed by the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, according to Hu.
The proportion of Pakistani patients increased from less than 10 percent during the first phase to more than 80 percent, according to the Red Cross Society of China.
As of the third stage that officially wrapped up in early July, nearly 4,000 patients had visited the center. "We were also glad to see that more female Pakistani residents had overcome stereotypes and stepped into the center to seek diagnoses and treatment," Hu said.
The medical center has also initiated regular programs to conduct physical examinations for primary school students and employees hired by businesses in Gwadar.
The latest plan, according to Hu, is to build connections with the hospital located in the city center.
"We will provide the hospital with medications that are in short supply, especially the pediatric drugs, and assist them in diagnosing patients with complicated illnesses," Hu said. "In return, the hospital will share its clinical laboratory to help us conduct tests that are currently unavailable at the center."
According to the Red Cross, the medical center in Gwadar marks the starting point of a long-term initiative known as the China-Pakistan Emergency Corridor, a thread of medical units along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor stretching about 3,000 kilometers from Gwadar to Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
The organization added that it envisioned setting up a command center in Kashgar to coordinate emergency responses along the first-aid route.
The second center after Gwadar will be positioned in Quetta, near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, and preparation work is underway, according Hu.
"While foreign projects in Pakistan are always susceptible to unexpected incidents, such as security threats and communication difficulties, we will continue to accumulate experiences and accelerate progress in the future."
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