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With Ramathibodi Hospital overcrowded, a new facility will bring public healthcare to the east of Bangkok by the end of 2017

At the forefront of Thai public medicine since 1965, Ramathibodi Hospital is today struggling to cope with a caseload that tops 1.8 million patients per year. With space now so limited that only the most critically ill can be admitted, both the medical staff and those requiring treatment are looking forward to the opening of the Chakri Naruebodindra Medical Institute (CNMI) in Samut Prakan, which will share its space with Mahidol University’s new Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital.
While the medical hub is still a long way off being operational, construction is now 70-per-cent complete and the public hospital’s partial opening is scheduled for December 2017.
Located on 300 rai in Bang Pla subdistrict, Bang Phli, the new centre will serve as a teaching hospital and will focus on research into occupational and environmental medicine. A fully-fledged toxicology centre is also planned.
Initiated by His Majesty the King to serve his subjects to the east of Bangkok, the facility is located in the heart an industrial zone in Samut Prakan, home to factories and hundreds of thousands of low-income workers. The 400-bed hospital, which will be fully operational by 2020, was originally granted Bt6.2 billion for construction and is now welcoming donations for the purchase of advanced medical equipment and supplies. 
“The safety of patients is our top priority. Most patients at Ramathibodi Hospital tend to be suffering from complicated diseases that require specialist treatment and it is therefore not a suitable training facility for first- to third-year medical students,” says Dr Pongsak Khowsathit, an associate professor and deputy dean of Mahidol’s medical faculty.
“We have about 180 students graduating each year and the chances that they will ever treat the specific diseases we see now at Ramathibodi Hospital are about 10 per cent. The challenge for us is to prepare newly graduated doctors before they decide on their specialisation by allowing them to treat common and more generalised ailments. The CNMI will be a good place to train them.” 
To achieve its aim of knowledge-based medicine and care, CNMI intends to be model for medical services as well as for education and practice by newly trained medical staff. Its care facilities will include an outpatient department, emergency room, operating room, labour room and inpatient wards, all fitted with internationally certified modern equipment.
Another division, Her Majesty the Queen’s Anniversary Learning and Research Centre, will focus on producing medical and other health-science staff to serve local communities through a competency-based curriculum. The centre will feature study rooms and conference rooms, a library, a modern laboratory for student work, an advanced resuscitation lab, a mock-up patient ward and a research laboratory.
CNMI will adopt the student-centred approach to teaching, allowing would-be doctors to help design the learning ambience and promoting teamwork as well as closer relationships between teachers and students.
The Recreation Building will allow students to work on their interests and refine their studies through teamwork and leadership performances. It will also house a community hall, which will serve as an activity centre for local residents and strengthen engagement with the neighbourhood.
In addition, the CNMI will refine and strengthen logistics and supply chain management by ensuring competency and efficiency at every step of the process. 
Workers at Samut Prakan’s industrial estates will benefit both from access to timely healthcare services at the hospital facility and from outreach programmes at local factories for which special staff training will be conducted.
“We have discussed the specific needs of the area with official agencies and know these include emergency services, pre-delivery and labour care as well as heart and eye problems. Holistic medicine is especially important in occupational medicine, rehabilitation and also geriatric care and we will have doctors specialised in these disciplines,” Dr Pongsak says.
“Certainly we can be very proud of our many accomplishments as agents for change and leaders in the country’s medical developments as well as policy makers for society’s well being,” he continues.
These achievements include the implementation of the Bt30 health scheme, which was designed by Ramathibodi alumnus Dr Sanguan Nitayarumpong, the hospital’s leadership in transplant surgery for the lungs, kidneys and bone marrow, its treatment for haemophilia and other blood-related diseases and its numerous public health campaigns.
“Today, our challenge is to prepare top quality and socially responsible doctors. I don’t worry about the advances in medical technology, as I believe medical services in Thailand are second to none but I do believe that morality and ethics require a boost. It is not that the present situation is no good but there is a tendency to look too much towards the commercial side of care.
“What I like about the young generation medical students is that they have courage, are outspoken and think out of the box. These qualities have been our distinction since the very beginning,” Dr Pongsak concludes.
- Donations to help with the building of the new hospital can be made through the Rama Foundation (Chakri Naruebodindra Medical Institute), with the following accounts: 
- Siam Commercial Bank Ramathibodi branch, savings account 026-4-26671-5. 
- Bangkok Bank SomdechPhraDebaratana Building, savings account 090-7-00123-4 
- For more information, contact the Ramathibodi Foundation, 270 Rama VI Road, Rajthewi, Bangkok 10400. Call (02) 201 1111.

Published : August 30, 2015

By : Kupluthai Pungkanon The Natio