Buddhist Tzu-Chi Merits Society Malaysia set up its first Dialysis Centre in Penang at Jalan Gottlieb in August 1997. Five years later, a second and third centre followed suit in Jitra, Kedah and Bagan Ajam, Butterworth, respectively, to give hope to more poor and needy patients with free dialysis treatment.
How it all started
The original decision to set up a Tzu-Chi Dialysis Centre came about because of the volunteers’ compassion in the face of human suffering. As the care recipients under the local chapter increased, the volunteers realized the inter-connectedness of poverty and sickness. Among the sick under their care, were a number who needed dialysis treatment in order to live. The expensive treatment was beyond the ability of a poor person to bear. The courageous undertaking to address this issue had the blessings of Master Cheng Yen and, consequently, Tzu-Chi Dialysis Centre, Malaysia became the first Tzu-Chi medical set-up outside Taiwan. Its mission is to safeguard Life, Health and Love.
The first to offer totally free dialysis
The cost of a single dialysis session is RM135 and is done 3 times per week with additional EPO (Erythropoeitin) injection for anaemia which cost RM 60. The total monthly dialysis expenditure could be as much as RM 2,500 to RM 3000. Tzu Chi was the first dialysis centre to offer free dialysis out of 680 dialysis centers in Malaysia which cover free dialysis, EPO injection, Blood Tests and regular specialist check-up for all patients irrespective of race, religion or creed. Average monthly operating expenses of Tzu-Chi dialysis centres come up to RM350,000, not factoring in the cost of dialysis machines. Presently the three Tzu-Chi dialysis centres operate 46 dialysis machines, employ 42 medical staff and provide service to 176 dialysis patients. On the waiting list are another 148 patients whose dialysis treatments elsewhere are being subsidised by Tzu-Chi.
Turn garbage into gold and gold into loving kindness
November 1996 saw the commencement of Tzu-Chi fundraising efforts with the volunteers kindness and compassion and the support of the public, after which it was a test of endurance and courage for Tzu-Chi people. Apart from receiving the kind donations, volunteers were constantly thinking up ways to solicit more funds. ‘Turn garbage into gold and gold into loving kindness’ was the call for recycling efforts which led Tzu-Chi people into streets and homes, undaunted, looking for materials to recycle. The ‘white-clouds and blue-skies’ uniforms became a familiar sight. Money derived from recycling paid for one third of the operating monthly expenses.
Professionalism and Humanity
Tzu-Chi people owed a sacred duty of care to the funds collected so that they may be put to the best use. The staff of Tzu-Chi infused their sense of mission with professionalism as a result of which the Penang centre endeavoured towards ISO Certification in July 2002. In 2005, Butterworth and Kedah centre followed suit. This is to ensure that only the best service is given to the patients. ISO9001 achievement has since been recertified for the three centres come July every year.
Under the guidance of Master Cheng Yen, the three dialysis centres ensure that a good and warm environment exist, such that the staff, nurses, volunteers and patients are like one family.
In the centres the patients are very fortunate to enjoy the nurses’ love and care as well as the encouragement of their fellow patients. They are also exposed to Master Cheng Yen’s discourses through DaAi TV and hopefully they may see through their problems and worries and one day, even become volunteers themselves.
CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) Screening and Awareness Program
At Tzu-Chi Dialysis Centre, emphasis is given to the prevention of kidney failure before the need for dialysis arises. In 2009, a department was set up to educate people on the health of our kidneys, as a measure to avoid having to undergo eventual dialysis.
Presently this care is given to those with a higher risk of kidney failure such as the immediate family members of the dialysis patients, the reason being similar life-style, food or even genetical factors.
Nurses in charge make a few basic tests in the blood and urine samples for diabetes, cholesterol, body mass index and blood pressure. After comparing the test results to the norm, they follow up with advices in food and life-style. Any serious deviations are quickly monitored and addressed.
Future prospects for patients
According to the Malaysian national statistics report up to the end of 2010, Malaysia has some 23,000 dialysis patients, and since 2007 new dialysis patients average an increase of 4,000 annually. This prompted Tzu-Chi to undertake the construction of a new six-storey dialysis centre which will house over 100 dialysis machines. The expected date of completion of this project is by the year 2014.