Brenda Yee (right), the administrative director of Chinese Hospital, describes the facility to Yuan Nansheng, China's new consul general in San Francisco, during his visit on Tuesday. Yu Wei / China Daily
A $100,000 donation from the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council was delivered to San Francisco Chinese Hospital on Tuesday by China's consul general in the city, Yuan Nansheng.
The donation had been announced by the office's director, Qiu Yuanping, during a recent visit to China by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
The gift shows the State Council office "cares deeply about the construction and development of the hospital and Chinese-Americans in San Francisco", Yuan said. "I believe the donation will play a part in the hospital's future development."
"Our first overseas Chinese had a very tough beginning in the US," he said. "The Chinese Hospital has done and continually is doing a lot of good things in terms of helping vulnerable groups."
The hospital, which opened in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1899 as the Tung Wah Dispensary, will use the $100,000 toward construction of a new, $160 hospital next-door to the current one, built in 1924. That structure would be razed, but a 1979 annex would remain.
"I think the amount of money is not important, but the meaning is significant. The government is making the right choice by supporting the establishment of a new hospital," said Bai Lan, an official with the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco.
"It's great encouragement for us even though we are still a ways from meeting our fund-raising goal. Because of this strong impetus, we will work harder to serve our community and encourage other overseas Chinese continue to support us," Bai said.
Chinese Hospital was built to serve the city's Chinese immigrants at a time when other providers denied health care to the community.
"Many Chinese came to build the railroad in the 19th century, and lots of them died or got very sick," said James Ho, the hospital's vice-president. "Places they called hospitals didn't take any people of color at that time. Basically, they didn't have a hospital, so they would die. That's why this hospital was established."
Today, many immigrants from China still prefer it to other local hospitals, for bilingual services as well as price.
According to Ho, 95 percent of patients served by Chinese Hospital are poor, including a large number on Medicare and Medicaid. But the nonprofit institution administers its own community health insurance plan to control costs. In 1982, the hospital formed an alternative to standard HMO plans for patients willing to receive care within the new system. Since 1987, the Chinese Community Health Plan has offered affordable insurance plans to small businesses in the community.
"We have our own hospital, our own doctor group and our own insurance - three parties together. That's separate in most US hospitals," Ho said. "Because we own all three, when we make money, we split it; when we lose money, we share [the loss] together. This kind of sticking together through thick and thin prevents us from overcharging each other, and we provide our patients better service while maintaining lower costs."
The hospital has 59 beds and operates a medical center in downtown San Francisco and clinics in four neighboring Bay Area cities. Those are convenient for people who live far Chinatown, especially elderly patients, Ho said.
Since it opened in November, the Chinese Hospital East West Health Services medical center has offered comprehensive services including traditional treatments such as acupuncture, cupping, therapeutic massage and herbal medicine.
Ho said Chinese Hospital initially combined Chinese and Western medicine, but because the former lacks uniform standards, Western approaches became the norm. In recent decades, however, Chinese medicine has become more standardized, and more Americans embrace things like massage and acupuncture, Ho said.
The new donation, Ho said, will enable the hospital and its affiliates to serve low-income patients and continue the tradition of offering care in two languages at an affordable cost.
"There's a reason I've been involved in this hospital for 30 years - that is a promise to my grandmother," he said. At another hospital, "she was very unhappy because she didn't know the language. So she made me promise her that I would help this hospital to do well and that I would then help build a new hospital."