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The Chinese Hospital That Became a Permanent Home for Its Patients

What started off as a hospital in the 1960s in eastern China’s Wuyi County has, over the years, transformed into a self-sufficient commune where patients and their families live with the medical staff in perfect harmony. 36 patients have made Yangjia Hospital their permanent residence, working alongside their family members to grow their own crops and cook their own food, while receiving medical treatment for their illnesses.

The hospital was founded nearly five decades ago by the state-run Dongying quarrying company for its workers, who ended up with an occupational lung disease known as pneumoconiosis. When the company went bankrupt in 2000, the local government took over its administration and continued to pay the doctors and staff. But funds were tight and many of the 400-odd patients ended up moving to other hospitals. The number of patients continued to dwindle until only 36 remained. Some of their family members live with them, at an additional cost of 6 yuan ($1) per night.

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Eventually, the local council transferred ownership of the facility to Fu Jianghua, who has worked at the hospital since 1983 and currently serves as its director. Under his leadership, the community uses the funds they receive from the patients’ health insurance plans to survive. The hospital is now a village of sorts, where residents grow vegetables, cook together, and play cards for entertainment.

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As wonderful as that sounds, the residents of Yangjia Hospital do live in rather despicable conditions. No new patients ever visit the hospital, so the income is limited to insurance handouts. There is no extra money to fix the premises and its overgrown vines, broken windows, and derelict rooms. Fu worries that they will go bankrupt soon, and be unable to care for the remaining patients.

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Despite these hardships, he is convinced that the hospital’s approach to let the patients and their families live there permanently was the right decision. “If we just treat this illness alone then we are putting ourselves on the road to oblivion, we need to expand what we do in all directions – it’s the only way to survive,” Fu told Reuters.

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For now, the resident-patients at the hospital are managing to make ends meet. Some of them, like 85-year-old Lin Ziming, have lived there for over 30 years after being diagnosed with lung disease. Others, like Wang Tianfang, have only been there for a couple of years. They’ve all chosen to stay on because of the affordable price of treatment, and because of the sense of community. As Tianfang describes it: “It feels like family here.”

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Photos via NetEase

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