By LYN V. RAMO
BAGUIO CITY (Sept. 30) — Baguio City’s Filipino-Chinese General Hospital, the only hospital in this part of the globe which uses both western and oriental medicine, has consistently served the people of the north, specially the Cordillera, according to its founder Dr. Charles Cheng.
Cheng told Nordis in an interview that most of his patients come from communities, which are usually reached through a two-to-four-hour hike along steep slopes.
“Most are farmers who take a four-hour bus ride just to take their frail patient to the hospital,” Cheng describes his patients. He adds that before they reach the Chinese hospital, the poor families have shelled out a large chunk of their hard-earned money looking for cure in other hospitals and healing clinics elsewhere.
The Baguio Filipino-Chinese General Hospital, established in November 1968 with a 25-bed capacity, caters to all types of patients from those with simple influenza to those with life-threatening ailments like asthma, cancer and even HIV-AIDS.
Meeting patients’ needs
“The hospital meets the patients’ needs halfway,” Cheng said with a calm reassurance. As the founder and medical director, Cheng practices discretion in running the hospital.
Cheng runs the only Chinese hospital north of Manila with the holistic approach in mind. The Chinese hospital does acupuncture, moxibustion and herbal remedies, aside from the usual hospital processes other hospitals cater to. For more elaborate laboratory procedures like MRI, 2D-echo and other, Cheng refers patients to other hospitals when necessary. He also gives premium to proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent the onset of diseases and maintain a healthy disposition.
With Cheng are two resident physicians, two pathologists, a radiologist and a number of professional nurses. Other visiting doctors, among them is Dr. Andres Bugnosen, also beef up the hospital personnel.
Aside from its alternative oriental and western medical services, the hospital boasts of a halfway housing facility for the patients’ family to stay at while the patient is hospitalized. Cheng said, watchers who do not have any kin in the city could cook, do the laundry and get enough rest with no added costs.
Cheng also boasts that he has been transferring oriental medicine skills and knowledge among his patients. So far, he has trained around 60 locals in acupuncture and moxibustion. He also trains his medical and nursing staff in oriental medicine.
“The results are gratifying,” he said of the impact of his trainings on the beneficiaries. “The trainees learn fast and they seem happy with the results,” he beams.
Cheng’s advocacies: compassion for the poor
The region’s poorest of the poor go to the Chinese hospital for care and compassion. Some patients say they have tried other doctors and healers but were not cured.
“Sometimes, they come a little later but still they walk out of the hospital with a smile,” Cheng confides. “I just tell people to come and be treated here as early as they feel something wrong with their body, but they always come when the ailment is somewhat serious already,” he reveals.
His compassion for the poor influenced his advocacies in the medical profession. He adjusts hospital bills according to the family’s capacity to pay. Cheng also boasts that his room rates are the cheapest in the city these days, despite the ambiance of a luxurious hospital.
Through the hospital, Cheng learned from the lives of lowly vegetable farmers from Benguet’s temperate vegetable gardens. He said they come with peculiar ailments resulting from chemical contamination. He then explained that the major rivers that find their headwaters in Benguet and Mountain Province might be contaminated with chemicals from Benguet’s vegetable gardens.
He also meets mineworkers from Itogon, Mankayan and other mining communities and treats their illnesses resulting from the workplace. Even when a strange ailment struck some communities near the open pit mines in 1990s, it was Cheng, among the many doctors who treated patients then, who asked those who came to him if they lived near a factory, which could have caused respiratory and skin diseases.
Likewise, he comes in contact with the city’s entertainment workers afflicted with HIV-AIDS and offers them alternative solutions at strengthening the immune system to combat the symptoms and ease the pain of the persons living with AIDS.
Cheng is among the descendants of Cantonese and Fujienese original Chinese tribes who settled in the country at the turn of the 20th century. He was born at the Baguio General Hospital in the 1930’s and went to Lucban Elementary School. He married Marina Lee, an Igorot-Cantonese mestiza from Kapangan, Benguet and a co-founder of the hospital, who passed away ten years ago. He again married Catherine Viernes Bersamira of Abra, who helps him with hospital administration.
On top of Cheng’s work in the hospital, he is active in many civic and social organizations in Baguio City and the Cordillera.
A columnist himself, Cheng said he is happy that the Northern Dispatch Weekly is celebrating its 18th Anniversary this month. Like Nordis, which carry a column on medicinal plants, Cheng writes a column on alternative remedies. #