URUMQI, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Rich in resources but remote, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region isn't widely regarded as a medical tourism destination by Chinese. But for people from Central Asia, it's a different story.
Lubov Duhno felt a bit unwell after the two-hour flight from Kazakhstan's Astana to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. The pain in her knees was much relieved when she saw the familiar airport and her translator waiting outside.
It was the same translator who had accompanied her to the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xinjiang Medical University during years of treatment for the arthritis in her knees as well as obesity.
"I like the therapeutic schedule offered by Chinese doctors. It's a nice hospital and the medics are friendly. They arrange transportation and my favorite food every time," said Duhno, 62.
After a health check and group consultation, doctors offered their solutions -- acupuncture, massage, drug therapy and weight control therapy that involves surgically embedding catgut in acupuncture points on her body.
Within a week, her pain was relieved and she had started to lose weight.
Xinjiang's medical industry has become a promising part of the Belt and Road Initiative, a grand trade and infrastructure plan proposed by China in 2013.
As the regional capital, Urumqi boasts dozens of medical institutes and diversified traditional medical resources, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Uygur medicine, and Mongolian medicine. ( The skilled physicians, advanced medical equipment, free airport and hospital pick-up and translation services offered by Xinjiang's hospitals are a big draw for people in Central Asia.
In 2016, major hospitals in Urumqi treated 8,645 foreign patients, a year-on-year increase of 16 percent, according to the city's health and family planning commission.
Wu Yue, a top hospital official, has just completed an inspection tour in Kazakhstan, where many hospitals have old equipment and limited services.
"In addition to countries such as Germany and the Republic of Korea, a growing number of patients from Kazakhstan are choosing China as their new destination for medical treatment," said Wu.
The remote consultation is free and treatment fees are the same for both Chinese and foreign patients, according to Luan Xinping, deputy head of the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xinjiang Medical University.
In a room filled with training devices and colorful toys, five-year-old Aguila and her twin sister are in rehabilitation training.
The twins from Uzbekistan were born with cerebral palsy and are unable to walk or even sit.
Their mother, a former architect, brought them to the Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Xinjiang Medical University last winter for one month of treatment. When they left, they could walk with their mother's help. The family came to Xinjiang again this April.
"We combine modern rehabilitation techniques with traditional Chinese Chiropractic, and adjusted our therapy based on weekly assessment of their condition. There is a big chance they will be able to live independently in the future," said Li Yongxia, a former doctor for the Chinese national swimming team.
Li came to Xinjiang last year. The region is encouraging more high-skilled doctors to work there to strengthen the international departments of hospitals and improve medical resources.
The Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Xinjiang Medical University set up an international department last October. In the first three months, it received more than 80 patients from countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and 90 percent of beds were occupied, according to hospital president Han Rong.
Xinjiang plans to add at least 500 beds for foreign patients in the following years.
The region is also trying to attract foreign medical tourists through an online network of hospitals. More than 10 hospitals in Xinjiang and over 20 hospitals in neighboring countries have joined the platform for remote consultation, online surgery instruction and remote training for doctors.
"Impressed by our considerable services, many foreign patients introduce their relatives and friends to our hospital after they return home," said Han.
Liubov Alifirenko, 61, is among them. Tormented by Achilles tendinitis for years, the Russian sought treatment in Urumqi and recovered early this year.
Borrowing a Chinese gesture of gratitude, she sent a red silk banner to doctors, which is hung on the hospital's wall and with a sentence in Russian: "I appreciate the goodness and dedication of Chinese medical workers."