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SF’s Chinese Hospital celebrates 125th anniversary

Chinese Hospital in San Francisco’s Chinatown celebrated its 125th anniversary Thursday, serving as the only remaining independent community hospital in the city. 

As a community-owned, nonprofit healthcare organization, Chinese Hospital works to provide “culturally and linguistically appropriate care” to the Chinese community at a low cost, ABC7 Chicago reported. 

Established in 1899 under the name Tung Wah Dispensary, this hospital was meant to help Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. to build the railroads. They were not allowed to go to mainstream hospitals due to discrimination.

“Although Chinese Hospital started because of exclusion, for the future, were looking into collaboration and partnership,” said Dr. Jian Zhang, CEO of Chinese Hospital, told ABC7 Chicago. “It’s really not just a hospital, it’s very much a part of our history and a part of the community.”

Earlier this month, Assemblyman Phil Ting announced that $5 million had been provided to the Chinese Hospital’s state budget to build 23 new subacute-care units, which are for patients with illnesses and injuries that don’t require hospitalization, San Francisco Examiner noted. 

While Ting explained the city requires far more than 23 subacute units, he hopes that initiatives like these inform healthcare providers of the necessity of these essential services in San Francisco. 

“It’s a terrible situation for San Francisco to be in. Demand for these beds is escalating, and we have nothing to offer. Families are forced to turn to other parts of the state. They shouldn’t have to travel great distances to visit their loved ones,” said Ting to the San Francisco Examiner. “We must fill this gap in services, especially when it impacts vulnerable people who have limited resources and rely on the government to provide care.”

The original dispensary was closed after the 1906 earthquake and fire, which led to the formation of the Chinese Hospital Association in 1923. The original building was torn down in 2016 to make room for the new healthcare center.

“You may have a good hospital, but maybe too far away,” said Arthur Chen, who is a member and long-time donor to hospital, ABC7 Chicago reported. “For the Chinese, it’s not convenient. All the nurses and the assistants, they understand and they care. They love. I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to them of a job well done.”

This year, for the first time in its history, Chinese Hospital was titled one of America’s Best-In-State Hospitals by Newsweek for its “outstanding care and accessibility.”

“I do see hope, and I also see a lot of challenges here, too,” said Zhang. “Together, I think we can overcome all the barriers and make sure Chinese Hospital survives and thrives and to continue to serve the community. We’re very proud.”

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