Tibet Foundation

Sershul County Health Initiative

May 1, 2004

Sershul County Health Initiative

Taken from Tibet Foundation Newsletter 43.
A Report by Chuni Yangdron, field project manager of the Sershul County Health Initiative (SCHI)

Chuni Yangdron has been the Tibet Foundation Project Manager of the Sershul County Health Initiative since March 2002. She is based at the Foundation Field Office at Sershul, Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Sichuan Province). This article is taken from her latest report from Sershul Tibetan Medicine Hospital at the end of March 2004. It outlines the support the Foundation has given and the outcomes in improving the lives of Tibetans in Sershul.

In June 2001 the Sershul Hospital began to receive Tibet Foundation’s financial support. Tibet Foundation’s Aid to Tibet programme has been working in this part of Tibet since the infamous snow disaster in 1995. In December 2000 the SCHI programme received approval for co-financing from the European Union Directorate-General for Development. This covered fifty percent of the €225,146 project costs. Tibet Foundation has raised the remainder (approximately £80,000).

Supporting Sershul

Sershul is one of the eighteen counties in the Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the north westernmost tip of Sichuan Province. It has an area of over 25,000 square kilometres and is predominantly nomadic grassland. The population is around 68,000, 96% of whom are ethnic Tibetan.

Gyur Mi Pham Rinpoche, a renowned scholar and doctor born in Sershul in 1848 lived much of his life in Sershul. He codified much of contemporary Tibetan Medicine. His two medical texts draw heavily on the medicinal herbs available in the grasslands of Sershul. The Tibetan name for the county town of Sershul, Gyurga, reflects this Lama's revered place in Tibetan history.

Tibet Foundation’s Contribution

The Sershul County Tibetan Medicine Hospital was established in Gyurga in 1991 with four staff members. Daily income was between RMB 30 and RMB 40 (£3 -4). By 2001 the number of staff had increased to 15 people and daily income has increased to RMB 100 – 150, with a total annual income of RMB 30,000. There was very limited accommodation for the students and lack of adequate facilities for manufacturing Tibetan medicine. While many local people prefer to see a Tibetan doctor, in this area there were very few such doctors at that time.

Construction and Renovation
Since 2001 Tibet Foundation has contributed some RMB 287,500. With this we were able to renovate old building for teachers and students accommodation. New wings were built: to allow for hygienic preparation areas; for the storage of medicine and medicinal herbs; for washing facilities and toilets; and also for garaging 2 jeeps.

Production of herbal medicine
In 2001 the Hospital had 70 different kinds of medicine and on average only 20 different types of medicines were produced in a year. There was only one machine and we were producing only 300 to 400 Gyama of medicine per year.

After purchasing a complete set of machinery with the support of the Foundation we were able to produce some 300 Gyama a day compared to only 50 Gyama we used to produce. Today we have on average 170 different kinds of medicine and 10 different kinds of "precious pills." Although 95% of Tibetan medicine is based on herbs, precious metals are used to make "precious pills" known as Rinchen rilpo, through a very complicated pharmaceutical process.

Annually the Hospital now produces over 1,000 Gyama (500kg) of over 100 different kinds of medicine.

Income from the medicine
A key objective of the SCHI was sustainability and using proceeds from medicine sales to support the Hospital, medical training and ensuring that medicines were affordable.

Before we had an income of some RMB 30,000 – 40,000 a year. With the Foundation’s support, we are now able to improve our income enormously. For example in the past two years and six months, we had an income of RMB 575,572; that is RMB 230,228 a year, which is a sevenfold increase. We have herbal raw materials in storage for processing or sale worth more than RMB 390,000 and in cash RMB 124,437. The Hospital staffs are very grateful to the Foundation for the support that has enabled this improvement to take place.

Medical School
Mipham Medical School was established on 20th October 1997 with 44 students. Rokpa International made a donation. At the time the nomads had lots of difficulties. There was hardly any qualified doctor and there were very limited quantities of Tibetan medicine available to the people. With the help from Tibet Foundation we increased the size of the class by another 22 students. Thus, the school now has 66 medical students. A number of senior students are in villages in different parts of the county on practical training courses and those who have completed the course are helping the local people in nomadic areas in the countryside.

Breakdown of the Health Initiative Expenditure

Under the SCHI programme, in the past two and half years, the Tibet Foundation has spent a total sum of RMB 1,146,861.87. This does not include the setting up costs of the Tibet Foundation office in Sershul.

Total amount sent to Sershul RMB 1,146,861

Salaries for teachers and students’ stipends: 388,980
Raw materials for the medicine: 300,000
Renovation of accommodation: 287,500
Vehicle and associated cost: 200,159
Sershul office expenditures, administration and evaluation: 61,476
Grinding machine and running costs: 40,265
School running expenses: 16,431

Total amount spent in Sershul RMB 1,294,811
Total deficit (adjusted from income of the medicine) RMB 147,950

As the deficit is adjusted from income of sale of the medicine, there is less money for us to spend on collection of herbs in the future. Therefore, the Hospital would like to request for this to be considered in planning for the coming years.

Conclusion

On behalf of all the staff and students of the Medical Hospital and the Sershul people, we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Tibet Foundation, their supporters and their staff for their kindness and generosity to the people of Sershul. Before your help, the two main obstacles facing Tibetans in accessing adequate health care were distance and cost. Now your support has given so many of us the opportunity of health and also hope. We no longer have shortages of medicines and our surpluses of herbs are sold to pay for training for doctors and treatment of the poorest free of charge. Our hope is that people in other areas can benefit from our experience about what has been made to work in Sershul. We hope this will be an inspiration in the future to once again make the noble tradition of Tibetan medicine prosper to its former glory.

We thank you very much.

From Sershul Tibetan Medicine Hospital

Notes: Exchange rates and weight equation
Chinese Currency Ren Min Bi (RMB)
£1= RMB 10 (2001)
£1= RMB 12 (2003)
£1 = RMB 13 (2004)
Euro
£1 = €1.44
1€ = £0.69
Weight
1 Gyama=500g
2 Gyama = 1 Kg