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Russians flock to Hainan for Chinese healing

ELENA Pankova and her friends flew directly from St. Petersburg to Sanya, a tourist city in southern China’s tropical island of Hainan, not just to enjoy the sunshine on the beach.

Pankova’s holiday also included receiving therapy at a local traditional Chinese medicine hospital.

Each day, Pankova receives two hours of therapy at Sanya Hospital of TCM, then spends the rest of the day sunbathing. Her two-month trip, which combines travel with TCM treatment, is part of a growing industry on the island — medical tourism.

“Modern Western medicine has little effect on me, so I came to Sanya to try TCM therapy,” said Pankova.

She is one of tens of thousands of Russians who flock to Hainan every year. The island province has received 800,000 Russian tourists in the past seven years.

Almost 80 percent of them have tried some form of TCM therapy during their stay — either to treat a particular ailment or simply to improve overall wellness, health authorities said.

The boom is particularly felt in Sanya, where Russian-language advertisements for acupuncture and cupping have popped up across the city.

Sanya Hospital of TCM has treated more than 40,000 patients from Russia and Central Asia since it introduced “TCM tours” in 2002.

“Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev have been treated at our hospital,” said Wang Tiansong, president of the hospital.

To meet the rising overseas demand for TCM therapies, the hospital built an international healthcare center in 2016 to provide medical treatment specifically for foreign patients.

Zang Jinpeng, an acupuncturist at the hospital, treated his first foreign patient five years ago. Since then he has started to learn Russian to allow him to communicate better with patients.

Besides giving patients acupuncture, cupping, tuina massage, and herbal medicines, Zang often gives TCM lifestyle information on how to keep fit and prevent diseases.

“I think Chinese medicine focuses on helping prevent diseases and reduce chances of getting sick,” said Zang.

Patients from Russia and Central Asia are more open to trying TCM as these countries have had frequent exchanges with China over many years, said Zang.

At the hospital, foreign patients are first given a physical health examination, then doctors create a specific treatment plan.

When they finish their treatment and prepare to leave Hainan, patients are given a flash drive containing their medical records.

However, unregulated private clinics, exaggerated treatment effects, and a lack of qualified TCM practitioners constrain the sound development of the medical tourism market in Hainan, the provincial TCM administration says.

The province will unveil two new regulations on TCM services and the construction of a TCM tourism model zone next month.

China put into effect a national law on TCM on July 1, which aims at regulating Chinese medicine as well as the training of medical personnel.

The new law will improve the global influence of TCM and boost international cooperation and exchanges, said Wang.


 

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