Monday, November 10, 2008

A Day with an Award Winning Thai Rural Doctor

November 8th, 2008 by King Kong Janoi Print This Post/Page

This week our profile of an inspiring Asia woman comes from the mountainous province of Mae Hong Son in northern Thailand bordering Burma.

For this is where we find the clinic of a female doctor who has received Thailand’s highest award for rural medicine.

For the last fourteen years Walairat Chaifu has being providing medical care to the hilltribe communities at her Pang Ma Pha hospital.

She once turned down a senior position at the Public Health Ministry because she wanted to continue working in the remote region.

Our correspondent King Kong Janoi spends a day in her.

Doctor Walairat Chaifu asks a mother about her child’s illness in her clinic in Pang Ma Pha.

She has short black hair and is always smiling and laughing.

The hospital is a hive of activity- Doctors and nurses are busy.

About 30 people are waiting for their turn to get treatment. An average wait is half-an-hour.

Mu Shar is one of them.

“We only have this hospital in our district. I always come here when my children are got sick. I come here for ten years ago. Before we only have community health care center, we don’t have any hospital.”

Before he and the rest of the 13,000 people in this district had to travel three hours to the nearest hospital.

Doctor Walairat is passionate about rural medicine.

“I would like to make community to be healthy. To work here and to improve health situation here is not just for funds. Also it is not just for my duty.”

The hospital treats around 2000 patients each month.

But some patients can’t afford to make the trip to the hospital.

So every weekend Dr Walairat makes house calls with her mobile medical team.

They have to travel long distances sometimes two hours on bumpy dirt roads. During the rainy season these roads often become impassable so they have to get out and walk up the steep mountains.

One the mobile teams nurses says at first some of the people from Shan, Karen and Hmong tribes were afraid of coming to the hospital.

She says they have to spend time with them gaining people’s trust.

There is also often a language barrier and Dr Walairat has to use a translator while treating some patients.

Mu Sayy an ethnic Shan says the community is very grateful for the mobile clinic. He says the doctors and nurses never discriminate against them because they can’t speak Thai.

The mobile medical unit also educates communities about good health care to prevent diseases.

Mu Sayy says they learn a lot from them.

“The doctors come to educate us how to prevent ourselves in systematically way. They told us to clean our hand when eat food. When we use chemical for killing virus in our plantation, they suggest us to use mask while we are working to prevent chemical affected. If we feel sick, they ask us to go to hospital. So far we learn a lot from them.”

The mobile clinic also provides at-home treatment of patients with diabetes, a major health problem in the Northeast.

Dr Walairat’s work has been recognized and last month she was the joint-winner of the annual Thai Rural Doctors Society award for outstanding service to the rural poor.

Siriporn Muangsrinon from the Women Lawyers Association of Thailand says she is an inspiring person.

“I hope we will get more doctors like her in other provinces. We would like to see more women like her and she is best example for our community.”

Dr Walairat was offered a senior position at the Public Health Ministry.

But she turned it down.

“I happy to work here because of patients, because of community, because to our staff, I feel there is a lot work to do here. My personality I like rural area. I used to work in public health ministry staying in Bangkok but I don’t like in Bangkok. The rural area is good social relationship.”

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