Thank you AD MediLink for the following interview.
Hong Kong has one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world. Obtaining professional medical treatment can be difficult and often not even an option for the least privileged communities in Hong Kong. Dr. Damien Mouellic, an osteopath at Dr. Lauren Bramley & Partners and founder of the Stanley Wellness Centre has initiated ‘Free Health Clinic’ days, a joint initiative with the Chinese International School to provide free health checks - General Practice, Dental, Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Obstectrics & Gynecology, Psychology and Psychiatry services - to such under-privileged communities. AD MediLink talks with Dr. Mouellic to find out more.
1. Was there a particular moment that sparked your desire/interest to offer free health services?
The idea started over lunch with Mrs. Mala Uttam, Chinese International School teacher and mentor to Year 10 students, in mid August 2016. I had decided that Stanley Wellness Centre, the clinic I established in Stanley in 2012, was going to give 30% of its profit to Cambodian and Vietnamese charities, but I was having difficulty deciding on a suitable recipient organisation. The discussion evolved during the lunch and we concluded that a lot of people in Hong Kong cannot afford healthcare and that it would be better to donate our skills and time directly to the people in need rather than giving money through a third party. We found, however, that the logistics, the time and the organisation of such a project is quite a bit more complex than simply writing a cheque.
2. How does the free clinic operate? Who does it benefit the most?
Mrs. Uttam suggested involving her CIS students to run the project in collaboration with the doctors, as she recognised the valuable experience that it would also bring them. The students researched and contacted several NGO’s with health questionnaires for potential patients. Those patients were then allocated to different doctors, specialists and allied health practitioners according to their primary complaint. The students organised the logistics and schedules of the patients so that the doctors could focus specifically on what they do best. In addition to providing the free consultations, the clinics provided the patients with medication at cost price, and Pathlab and HK Imaging provided the tests free of charge. Of course there were more complex facets to the project but this was the core structure.
We found that refugees and homeless people benefitted the most from the free clinic, and that they benefitted not only physically but also psychologically. A common theme for patients was that when in limbo in a foreign country, hope for a better future fades and starts to disappear over time. The simple act of being cared for can sometimes ignite joy and happiness.
3. Can you share a testimony or story of one of the patients you were able to help through the free clinic?
We have a range of statistics of all the tests we conducted with all the patients we helped.
For example, an elderly homeless woman presented to the clinic with symptoms of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), which could have been lethal without treatment. We immediately sent her for further diagnostic testing on the day of the clinic. That night at 11:00pm, Pathlab confirmed the diagnosis, and the patient was immediately admitted to Queen Mary Hospital for treatment.
We were also able to diagnose another patient, a middle-aged homeless man, with a severe case of diabetes for which he was able to receive treatment in the public sector.
4. What are the plans for the free clinic in the future?
We saw 130 patients at the first clinic in November 2016 and 180 patients in the second clinic in February 2017. We hope that the third clinic planned for mid June 2017 can involve 1 or 2 more large Hong Kong clinics and help 500 patients. Long term, the Free Clinic will ideally be able to run as a self-sustaining entity, but hopefully always maintaining the collaboration of the international schools of Hong Kong.
5. How can the general Hong Kong public get involved and support this initiative?
What we will need to continue running the Free Clinic is further funding to allow for more tests, more follow ups and long term medication for the patients. We also need an education program for the NGO’s involved, to make sure that the case workers use the correct avenues to access appropriate health care for each patient.
Damien Mouellic is a Franco-Australian Osteopath, and has trained in all modalities of Osteopathy, including structural, visceral and cranial Osteopathy. Over the last 9 years in Hong Kong he has worked alongside general practitioners and specialists in Central, Hong Kong and has founded the Hong Kong Osteopathic Association as well as the Stanley Wellness Centre. His expertise lies in structural, pediatrics, cranial and biodynamic Osteopathy.