Nguyễn Trung Thực Hospital

29 Tháng Mười 201312:00 SA(Xem: 1737)
Nguyễn Trung Thực Hospital

Healing and medical practices were an integral part of the Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương legacy and the Hòa Hảo tradition. Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital in Cù Lào Ông Chưởng and Hòa Hảo Village clinic were typical examples of Hòa Hảo medical institutions.

Notably, before 1955, Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital was a medical center of the Nguyễn Trung Trực armed forces. In the wake of the Hòa Hảo armys dissolution, this hospital began serving civilian population. It did not look like other government-sponsored medical institutions as it consisted of a number of small buildings. The Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital had sufficient staff and equipment to work as a 150-bed general hospital.

Nonetheless, the government was reluctant to recognize the Hòa Hảo medical center. Only in 1965 Health Minister Trần Lữ Y, who served in Nguyễn Cao Kỳs cabinet, did issue a ruling and stated that Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital was in a position to function as an officially-recognized medical center. Nonetheless, local authorities, namely the health department of Long Xuyên province, still declined to allow the opening of Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital - presumably due to the lobbying of 38 private medical centers in the province. It took another three years to solve all of the problems, and, in 1968, the Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital was formally inaugurated.

When the hospital was re-assigned from military to civilian use, new space became urgently needed as up to 200 people sought medical assistance every day, former director of Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital, Lê Thái Hòa, told the author in an interview. Nguyễn Hòa Hóng clan, a rich family from Long Kiến provided some land, once used as a site of Nguyễn Trung Trực armed forces headquarters, to upgrade and expand the hospital.

Since the Hòa Hảo community lacked sufficient funding, the hospital was expanded mainly by volunteers efforts. Beds and other equipment were from donations. Some beds were second-hand repaired units. The hospital had sufficient equipment for its surgical room, lab, and X-ray room. The equipment originated from hospitals which were evacuated from the North in 1954-1955, and eventually became available for purchase on the black market. The Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital also had eleven compounds with enough beds capable of treating 200 to 250 patients.

However, the authorities evaluated the hospital as below standards and thus refused to give it permission to operate. While denying the Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital its legal operation, the government made no effort to respond to the peoples needs by building another hospital that met its set standard.

Since its inauguration in 1968, Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital served some 600-800 visitors a day. According to Lê Thái Hòa, the number of people who sought medical assistance at the hospital clearly suggested that this area needed a major medical center. Nonetheless, the government declined to build a larger hospital there or allocate funding to support Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital. There were only limited supplies of medicines from Japanese and German charities.

The authorities did provide a tiny stipend of 25,000 dong a month (compared to 8 million a year paid as salaries to Long Xuyên province health officials). In 1968, Dr. Huỳnh Trung Nhì, head of Long Xuyên health service, stated that Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital would not lasted for six months. Nonetheless, the hospital survived until 1975.

Some Hòa Hảo followers, such as Dr. Trần Lũy and Dr. Đào Tuấn Kiệt, worked at the hospital without compensation. Every year Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital trained 30-50 volunteers to work at the hospital as paramedics or nurses. It should be pointed out that Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital successfully combined Western medical practices and traditional Oriental medicine. Patients were given free treatments and prescriptions. For the poor, the hospital prescribed medicines for free.

In the long run, Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital could not subsist on donations alone and thus, was forced to launch a number of commercial ventures, including agricultural projects, and was successful in doing so. For instance, in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saigon in 1975 the Communist authorities seized some 20,000 tons of rice at Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital. Following the takeover, the Communist commanders placed a number of soldiers at Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital - officially for treatment but in fact the troops were assigned to control the facility. Subsequently, new authorities assigned a medical team of two doctors and 16 paramedics to work at the Nguyễn Trung Trực hospital but they were met with mistrust by Hòa Hảo followers.
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