International Patient Center marks 5 years of service
By Douglas Habecker
Ask almost any expatriate resident or traveler to describe a worst-case scenario overseas and the answer will often include illness or injury. What might already be a stressful experience in one's home country can be magnified significantly in an alien country and culture, where an unfamiliarity with language, medical options and procedures, quality of care and other factors all come into play. This can lead to situations that range from slightly inconvenient to terrifying.
Foreign residents and visitors in Central Taiwan can consider themselves very fortunate that such scenarios have grown increasingly rare over the past five years, thanks to the existence of the International Patient Center (IPC) at Jen-Ai Hospital in Tali city, Taichung county. This month, the IPC marks its fifth anniversary of service to the international community and more than 70 nationalities.
Jen-Ai Hospital deserves tremendous credit for taking the initiative in 2003 to create what was then unprecedented for Taiwan--a full-service department exclusively focused on assisting international patients in need of medical care. The goal has been to ease the stress of medical visits and procedures, primarily through the provision of an interpreter who literally walks the patient through the process, from scheduling appointments and hospital registration to doctor visits, translation of medical documents, expediting payment transactions and even arrangement of Western-style patient meals.
In addition to the hospital's bilingual staff members who offer on-site English and Japanese services, services are provided by a team of volunteers who, with three days' advance notice, can be on hand to interpret in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Dutch, Afrikaans, Thai, Malaysian/Indonesian, Tagalog, Burmese and Cantonese, among 20-plus languages. In the case of emergencies, three-way conference calls can also be arranged with the patient, doctor and interpreter.
According to Program Director Mark K. Chan, the IPC to date has directly serviced over 6,500 patient visits from over 1,600 international patients from an amazing total of 72 different nationalities. The number of patients and patient visits has shown consistent growth, even as the hospital has earned a number of awards, including the Department of Health's "Excellent Bilingual Friendly Hospital" Award, the Executive Yuan's "Very Good English Environment" Award, and a number of international awards. Furthermore, the hospital has signed contractual agreements to become the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) in Taichung for International SOS & MedAire, Inc.
"Our experiences as patients at Jen-Ai Hospital have been great, and we have found that going to the doctor in Taiwan does not have to be stressful. Mark Chan and his staff have been there to interpret for us and lead us through the process of seeing doctors, having tests and getting medicine," said American artist, art curator and Fulbright Scholar Jane Ingram Allen, who has lived in Taichung with her husband for three years. "We find the care at Jen-Ai Hospital is excellent, and the doctors seem very competent. The International Patient Center is certainly a unique and valuable service that makes this hospital an excellent choice for any foreigners in Taiwan."
"From the day that I was admitted until the day that I was discharged, I was treated with nothing but respect and sincere kindness by all the staff," said South African teacher Sandra de Sissing, who recently moved to Taiwan and underwent surgery at Jen-Ai Hospital. "My week-long stay in the hospital has truly convinced me that this place now feels more like home than my own country."
"In the future, IPC hopes to provide more information in additional languages and introduce best medical practices that are widely available elsewhere in Taiwan," said Chan, noting that this expansion would include specialties popular among international patients as well as attracting medical tourists from overseas.
For detailed information, including on-line appointment request forms, the IPC has one of the most comprehensive English hospital websites in Taiwan at http://www.jah.org.tw/international.asp and may also be contacted via an English Information Hotline at 0963-175-765, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jen-Ai Hospital (Tali) is located just over the Taichung city/county border, south of the Taichung train station, at 483, DongRong Road, on the corner of GuoGuang Road.