CANTON, Aug. 30, 1972 (UPI) -- Chun Yun Wei's workday begins at 7 a.m. with clinics for earaches and other minor ailments and usually ends with night classes to teach his fellow farm workers hygiene and birth control methods.
Although Chun wears sandals and is not a qualified physician, he is known as a barefoot doctor. The phrase means he was chosen by his fellow workers to be sent to a three-month medical course. When he is not busy at the clinic, he is in the fields a few hours each day.
Chun, and untold thousands of barefoot doctors, male and female, are filling the serious shortage of doctors in a country still 80 per cent agricultural.
Creation of the barefoot doctor movement, or at least its official recognition, stems from the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s.
Barefoot doctors are not confined to the country. They also serve in the cities. In the Fung Seng revolutionary neighborhood committee in Peking, for example, two cheerful middle-aged married women, Hsu Chen Ying and Ye Feng Yuan, run a scrupulously clean clinic with white painted walls and neat green shelves stocked with both western style and traditional Chinese herbal medicines. Both have received some medical training, but as Mrs. Hsu said, "We really learn through practice."
Mrs. Hsu is an acupuncture specialist, and says she cures rheumatism, arthritis, hypertension, gastric disorders and dysentery with her needles.
At the Shuei Shi Production Brigade on the Lo Kong commune 25 miles east of Canton, Chun Yun Wei is in charge of the brigade clinic. He is 27, married with two children, and his biggest single possession, as it is with many families, is his bicycle, which he bought himself and uses on his rounds.
"The ailments I usually treat," Chun said, "are dysentery, headaches, bronchitis, pneumonia, ordinary fractures -- things like that."
Much of his time is spent teaching common hygiene and ways to combat the parasitic diseases such as field dermatitis and snail fever picked up in the watery paddy fields at planting or harvesting time.
Health officials say the old epidemic diseases like smallpox and cholera have been stamped out and tuberculosis controlled.
Chun, although his doctor's kit bag includes some western medicines along with a thermometer and other simple medical apparatus, largely uses traditional Chinese treatments. These include herbs, which he grows and processes himself, and acupuncture both with needles -- there is a special long, thick needle called a "barefoot doctor needle" -- and with simple pressure.
Helping Chun are a half-dozen part-time health workers trained to give simple injections.
Chun finishes his morning clinics around 11 a. m. On quiet days, he gets in some work in the fields. Then he eats dinner and goes out on what is probably his most important job - teaching hygiene.
"I also urge them to use birth control, but this is up to them," he said. He gives parents free pills or contraceptives if they want them. Most rural parents want to raise families of two or three children these days now that their standards of living are relatively higher.
With a national birth rate of 1.5 to 2 percent, China with its population reaching 800 million is trying to ease back to 1 per cent growth.
There are about 120 barefoot doctors on the commune which contains 50,000 people in 11,000 households. Each of the 14 production brigades has its own clinic, run by a barefoot doctor. Thirty doctors and nurses work out of the main hospital which serves 500 to 600 outpatients a day. Chun estimates that less than a quarter of his local patients have to go to the main hospital for further treatment.
The workers on communes pay a small amount ranging from half a yuan to a yuan (40 cents) a year for medical treatment. Chun's salary is about 40 yuan a month.