A hospital built 20 years ago in the central highlands of Vietnam as a tribute to American war dead and MIA's is getting new assistance from veterans groups and Gold Star Mothers who financed it.
"The Living Memorial Hospital is alive, but not well," Dr. James Turpin, the doctor who opened and ran the facility for seven years, said.Turpin and members of the American Legion and the Worcester County Gold Star Mothers scheduled a Sunday kickoff for a campaign to raise at least $150,000 in medicine and surgical supplies.
The hospital is the only health facility available for 150,000 people, most of them from the Koho tribe of the Montagnards who live in central Vietnam. It was built during the height of the Vietnam War and operated by Project Concern Inc., an international humanitarian relief group Turpin founded in 1962.
Turpin, who now practices rural medicine in Asheville, N.C., returned to the hospital last month on a fact-finding mission approved by the Vietnamese government.
"The very fact that it has survived through all these years is a miracle, and attests to the fact that the provincial government values it highly," Turpin said.
He found it is in dire need of the most basic supplies and equipment, because so much has worn out since it opened in 1970. The requests he brought back include drugs, vitamins, surgical equipment, an X-ray machine and operating room lights.
"Supplies stopped coming long ago to major and provincial hospitals," Turpin said. "They had no access to parts. When a heart defibrillator's rechargeable battery wore out, they were without that. The operating room lamp had nine bulbs. Only three are still working.
"They are desperately looking to us for the kind of support they once hoped would come from the Russians, but that support is not forthcoming.
"I don't think malaria, intestinal parasites or tetanus are political conditions. They are human conditions."