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Home Global Activities Taiwan A Short History of Tzu Chi’s Free Clinic in Hualien

A Short History of Tzu Chi’s Free Clinic in Hualien

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September 10, 2022 was the Mid-Autumn Festival. Fifty years ago, on that day in 1972, it was also the start of Tzu Chi's medical mission.


Poverty and Illness

In the early years of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Association, the founder of Tzu Chi, Master Cheng Yen, personally led her volunteers to visit the poor in remote areas of Hualien and around Taiwan. She found that many missions of charity could not be completed, and that most of those they visited were impoverished because of illness.

When someone became sick, the substantial medical expenses affected the economy of their whole family. If the person could be treated in time, minor illnesses would not turn into serious ones, and poverty and illness would not become a vicious circle. The Master realized that only by providing medical care could she break this circle of poverty and illness.

Tzu Chi’s Free Clinic in Hualien

Fifty years ago, on September 10, 1972, the Tzu Chi Merit Association’s free clinic for the poor was established on Renai Street in Hualien City. The building was provided by Mrs. Hwang, mother of Master Cheng Yen’s first disciple, De Tzu. This gave Tzu Chi a permanent place for its free clinic.

Although the space was small, it was thoughtfully laid out in the shape of a horseshoe and could be fully used as both a free clinic and a space for Dharma retreat.

Gratefully, the free clinic gained the support of a group of nurses and doctors. The medical team from the Hualien Provincial Hospital included pediatric physician Dr. Chang Chengwen (張澄溫), surgeon Dr. Hwang Boshi (黃博施), obstetrics and gynecology physician Dr. Chu Longyang (朱隆陽) , internal medicine physician Dr. Chou Yonghong (鄒永宏), and nurses Deng Shuqing (鄧淑卿), and Lin Biqian (林碧芑). Many kind-hearted medical professionals joined one by one. All of them were volunteers.

They took advantage of their lunch break from 12:00 to 2:00 every Tuesday and Saturday to take part in the free clinics.

In a small-scale free clinic, the volunteer medical staff could only do limited treatment. Patients with more severe diseases had to be transferred to a large hospital in the north of Taiwan for treatment. This gave the Master the idea of building a general hospital in Hualien.

Combining Home Visits with Medical Services

November 1972, just two months after the opening of the free clinic, was the first time Tzu Chi combined charity work with free clinic services. For two consecutive days, the volunteers conducted follow-up visits to impoverished families and gave medical treatments and medicines in the Hualien area.

Later, combined with free clinics and home visits to the poor, the scope of care expanded to cover Yuli, Taitung and other remote areas in eastern Taiwan.

On August 17, 1986, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital opened. In December of the same year, the mission of the free clinic came to an end. During more than 14 years of service, it had provided consultation for over 140,000 times.

The Value of Tzu Chi Medical Mission

Many things actually started out small. Since 1972 till today, Tzu Chi's seven hospitals continue to conduct free clinics. For people who are poor and ill and cannot seek medical care, Tzu Chi doctors will regularly go to the mountain and rural areas to provide them medical care.

Gratefully, Tzu Chi’s doctors, nurses, and volunteers, for holding free clinics nonstop for the past 50 years. For the poor, Tzu Chi provides them material aid. For the ill, Tzu Chi provides them medical care. For the critically ill, Tzu Chi sends them to a hospital. Tzu Chi has been doing this for all these years.

The spirit of the free clinic is based on respect for life. The clinic program helped people in areas with insufficient medical resources. The clinic at Renai Street in Hualien inspired the love of many people and was the starting point of Tzu Chi’s medical mission.

Doctors and other medical personnel serve with their power of love and have the same goal. They are truly safeguarding people’s life and health with love. This is the value of Tzu Chi medical mission.


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