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Chinese naval hospital ship offers free medical services to Fijian islanders

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A medical team from the visiting Chinese naval hospital ship Ark Peace was transported on Tuesday by a naval helicopter to Vatulele, an island more than 100 km away from Fiji's capital Suva, to offer free medical services to the islanders, who spoke highly of the Chinese military doctors' services.

"It's really unexpected that the Chinese military doctors landed from the sky," said Ratu, a tribal chief on Vatulele island. "When it was learnt that our government was coordinating for the Chinese medical ship's doctors to deliver medical services to the island, the villagers expected quite much just as they normally do in a festival."

"The sorties were conducted in an unfamiliar airspace overseas. We didn't have the information regarding take-off and landing on the island and the flight must cross two air control zones. Therefore, it is a new challenge for us to organize and command the flight and its support," said Ma Dongsheng, the pilot of the medical helicopter. He and his team made deliberate preparations for the sorties.

After 40 minutes, the medical helicopter from Ark Peace slowly landed on a school playground on Vatulele island. Shortly after disembarkation from the helicopter, the doctors were surrounded by the excited islanders, school teachers and pupils.

"It took about 5 minutes to walk from the landing site to the local health center. There are four simple rooms where almost no medical facilities are available," said Liu Di, the deputy commander of Mission Harmony - 2018, who led the 10-member medical team.

According to the medical facility conditions and local diseases on the island, the medical team specially carried portable facilities for ultrasound and electrocardiogram (ECG) and deployed specialist doctors of ophthalmology, dental clinic, orthopaedics, ultrasound, internal medicine and surgery as well to offer the most needed services.

As introduced by the tribal chief, there are four villages on the island with a population of above 800, and there is only one health center with only one doctor and one nurse.

Due to the arrival of the Chinese military doctors, this small health center immediately became very busy. Local doctor Filomena worked very hard and joined the medical team members in preparing the consultation and treatment site.

Shortly, the Chinese military doctors with red-cross armband began their medical services.

Salote, a 57-year-old islander who suffered from diabetes for years, recently had a tooth in trouble. His tooth was very painful and needed to be extracted. The local doctor had no way to deal with it due to the patient's excessively high blood glucose.

As he learnt that the Chinese doctors would come to the island for free treatment, he came to the health center early in the morning. Chen Tielou, a dentist from Ark Peace, carefully examined his tooth. By regulating blood sugar level with injection, the Chinese dentist successfully extracted the tooth and told the patient things to be cared about.

"Thank God! This is the most precious gift from the Chinese doctor!" said Salote humorously. He didn't forget to take away his extracted tooth when he left the health center.

Vasenai, a 63-year-old islander who makes living on farming, walks with difficulty due to arthralgia produced by articulation genus lesion, so his daily life is severely affected.

Zhang Guoyou, a doctor from the department of orthopaedics of Ark Peace, repeatedly examined and came to a diagnosis that the patient suffered from severe osteoarthritis.

"The Chinese military doctors are really good," Vasenai said pleasantly after collecting the free medicine.

Due to geographical conditions and life habits, there are more cases of cataract taking place to the islanders at early age. Although 34-year-old Torsi is not old, yet he has suffered from severe diminution of vision. He was consulted by Shi Sheng, an ophthalmology doctor from Ark Peace and the Chinese doctor made a diagnosis. As Torsi's cataract is still premature, operation is unnecessary but correction is a must.

Doctor Shi examined eyes for Torsi and presented a special pair of glasses. After putting on the glasses, Torsi jumped with joy and tightly embraced the Chinese doctor. As the islanders are concerned, embrace is the best way to express gratitude.

By noon, the room at the health center became hot and humid. Members of the medical team continued to work hard. They only took simple food for lunch and made the best use of time for medical services.

To express their appreciations, some islanders gave fruits, some presented notes of thanks and some others embraced the doctors and took photos with the doctors. Many patients, who were reluctant to leave the health center after satisfactory treatment, just wanted to see off the Chinese military doctors who completed medical consultation and treatment for 178 islanders.

The helicopter hovered again above the village and the large Red Cross on the helicopter was extremely striking. "We are blessed the professional consultation and treatment from the Chinese military doctors even on the island. Ark Peace is really appreciated and China is really appreciated," said the tribal chief. "You are welcome to Vatulele forever."

After the helicopter took off from the island, members of the medical team saw the islanders still waving their hands, shouting "Good bye, Chinese military doctors."

As of Wednesday, Ark Peace, which arrived here last Thursday for an eight-day goodwill visit, has completed medical consultation and treatment for 6,577 persons, auxiliary examinations for 3,074 persons, and received 26 inpatients as well as 32 cases of surgical operations.

Fiji is the third stop of Ark Peace's current mission and this is also the second time for the ship to visit the South Pacific Island nation after its first visit four years ago.

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