Spleen & Stomach Department, Mianyang Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Sichuan, China: May 2016
Today we observed at the Mianyang Chinese Medicine Hospital’s inpatient department. This building is right next door to the outpatient hospital we had been in yesterday. It has facilities for childbirth, surgery and the whole gamut of in-patient needs, combining both western and Chinese medicine / acupuncture. This is quite eye opening, because in Canada, where I live and work, Chinese medicine and acupuncture is only available in small privately run clinics and not as part of an integrated health care system.
Impressions from the digestive health in-patient ward
The hospital is pretty basic by Canadian standards and doesn’t have the sterile feel of a western hospital. Having said that they don’t seem to have super bug problems here.
We were in the digestive system department, and there are 3 to 5 beds in a room, or two beds for critical cases. Dr Pi, a specialist in ‘spleen stomach’ or digestive disorders, is doing his rounds. We had spent half the day yesterday with him in the outpatient building seeing patients with everyday digestive complaints. Today, the patients we are seeing have been admitted with more serious ailments.
Collaboration among doctors and students in the hospital
Dr Pi was here to advise and consult with the two resident doctors in the ward. On his rounds, he checks each patient’s tongue and pulse and hears any updates from the patient. After visiting about ten patients like this within half an hour, we returned to the doctor’s office area and he sat with the other doctors to reflect on each case and prescribe new or modified herbal formulas. There were also several interns (4-5th year students), and apprentice doctors listening and helping with various tasks.
Some examples of conditions seen in this ward
The severity of health issues on this floor ranged from people admitted for acid regurgitation and stomach pain for a couple of days to severe chronic liver cirrhosis. The main oriental medical patterns identified were spleen and stomach deficiencies, abnormal qi flow and excessive dampness. For example one man in his 50’s had pancreatitis due to excess ‘dampness accumulation’. He was receiving acupuncture with electro-stimulation on the abdomen, and we were told his prognosis was good.
On the same floor, another man in his 70’s or 80’s was suffering from advanced liver cirrhosis. He was very thin, weak and his skin was extremely yellow, leathery and taut. Despite the ‘deficient’ nature of his body condition, his pulse was surprisingly strong and wirey. Pulse reading is an ancient and foundational diagnostic tool in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese Doctors over the centuries have identified many pulses, each associated with a particular set of symptoms and patterns. When as strong a pulse as this is is felt in a very weak and ill person, it indicates the ‘separation of yin and yang’, and unfortunately a poor prognosis.