As part of research efforts, it offers state-funded check-ups and counselling The mainland's first care centre for recovered Sars patients opened this weekend at the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The centre was established as part of a larger effort to conduct research into the disease by monitoring the health of former patients. The centre hopes to attract recovered Sars patients by offering state-funded subsidies for weekly physical examinations and psychological counselling. 'Sars is a new disease so it is very important to monitor the health of patients after they are discharged,' said Yuan Huiqing, director of the hospital's respiratory department. 'Of course, we want to help recovered Sars patients to deal with the problems they may face as a result of the disease, but the centre is funded as a research project.' The centre is the first to offer recovered Sars patients counselling as part of their treatment. 'We have found that the vast majority of Sars patients suffer from serious psychological problems,' said Dr Yuan. 'They are discriminated against by society as a whole. They feel extremely isolated and often experience severe anxiety and depression.' Professor Cong Zhong, director of the Psychology Health Research Institute of Peking University, added: 'There is a terrible guilt associated with contracting the disease and being made to feel responsible for infecting others.' The centre was originally to have been located in the main hospital but complaints from other patients meant a separate building had to be found. 'We had no choice,' said Dr Yuan. 'Many people complained to the president of the hospital. They said they didn't feel safe under the same roof as Sars patients and that they would stop visiting the hospital if we let them into the main building.' More than 90 recovered Sars patients have already registered with the centre, which received 30 visitors on its first day. The centre will be open four days a week and will be staffed by lung specialists, acupuncturists and counsellors. The premises will be disinfected every second day. The care centre is scheduled to close at the end of the year. 'But if there is another outbreak of the disease, we will, of course, remain open for much longer,' said Dr Yuan.