By KUPLUTHAI PUNGKANON
N EXACTLY one year’s time – Father’s Day 2019 – the last Royal project initiated by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej will officially throw open its doors. The finishing touches are being put to the Navamindrabopitr 84th Anniversary Building at Siriraj Hospital but funds are still needed to fit out the building with medical equipment, which is likely to cost between Bt1.8 billion and Bt2 billion.
For the past 130 years, Siriraj Hospital has been ensuring Thais of all income groups get the treatment they need while also producing high quality doctors and nurses. The construction of Navamindrabopitr 84th Anniversary Building reflects the late monarch’s vision to ease the overcrowding and responds to his wish to help underprivileged patients at Siriraj Hospital.
The new high-rise building features 25 floors, one mezzanine, and two basements. It replaces three 50-year-old buildings and covers an area of 67,551 square meters.
At the recent press conference to launch the “Saving for Giving Year 2” campaign, Professor Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of the Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, told the assembled media that 80 per cent of the construction of the Navamindrabopitr 84th Anniversary Building was now complete.
“The overall structure is finished. Right now, the focus is on the decoration and interior design as well as the most complicated part of the building, the basement levels, which will house the machines for radiation therapy and the cooling system. These must be properly installed. We intend the new building to commence operations in March as we run tests on different functions. However, we have already set the official opening date for December 5, 2019 in remembrance the tireless works of King Rama IX to improve the lives of his people. The new building is expected to receive 20,000 inpatients and 500,000 outpatients per year,” he explains.
The name “Navamindrabopitr 84th Anniversary Building” was graciously bestowed by the late King Bhumibhol, meaning a building to celebrate the Great King Rama IX on the occasion of his 84th birthday anniversary.
Its medical services are divided primarily into three sections: out-patient service, in-patient service, an operation lab and special examination rooms. Once finished, the building will have 376 in-patient beds, 62 ICU rooms, and 14 specialist centres dedicated to Cardiology, Nephrology, Endocrinology, Diagnostic Radiology, Spinal, Nuclear Medicine and Pulmonary Function. There will be no VIP room.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is the chairperson of the project’s fund-raising committee. The construction cost of the building is estimated at Bt5 billion, with the government providing Bt2 billion on February 12, 2013.
“At that time, we were worried how we would be able to raise so much money for this project but we strongly believe in the |generosity of the Thai |people who see the benefits and follow the late King’s wishes. |We are grateful to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun and the royal family. And we are also grateful to Athiwara ‘Toon Bodyslam’ Kongmalai, our business partners, namely all the banks, and most importantly to the public, who have willingly participated in charity projects to raise money for the hospital,” he adds.
The hospital was established in 1888 by His Majesty King Chulalongkorn and named after the king’s 18-month-old son, Prince Siriraj Kakudhabhand, who died from dysentery a year before the facility opened. King Chulalongkorn himself performed the official opening ceremony on April 26, 1888.
Thailand’s first medical school, called Bhatayakorn School was opened in 1889 and was renamed Bhatayalai in 1900 by King Vajiravudh. This marked the beginning of modern medicine in Thailand. Modern medical services and medical education were also later offered.
A significant change in the Thai medical sector came about at the hands of His Royal Highness Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, who is known as the “Father of Modern Thai Medicine”.
Prince Mahidol was made aware of the dire need for improvement in the standards of medical and public health education in Thailand, particularly the conditions of medical practice, which lagged far behind Western standards, by Prince Rangsit, the then Chief of the Royal Medical College.
“He invited Prince Mahidol to take a boat trip along the Bangkok Yai and Bangkok Noi canals. His office, Siriraj Hospital, was on the route, and he invited his half-brother to stop and have a look around. The Prince reacted to the poor state of the hospital much as Prince Rangsit had expected, coming quickly to the conclusion that good education in basic sciences and a well-maintained public health service were essential to the development of human resources of the country.
In 1916 after being promoted to the rank of Captain (Royal Guard), Prince Mahidol resigned from the Royal Thai Navy to pursue his convictions, heading to the US to study public health at Harvard University.
In 1943, the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital was separated from Chulalongkorn University and reorganised with other faculties to become the University of Medical Science.
In 1969, His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej decided the time had come to upgrade the medical college with more comprehensive coverage and therefore established a new university, naming it Mahidol after his father, the Prince of Songkla.
Siriraj Hospital was the residence of the late King from September 2009 to August 2013. He entered the hospital for treatment of a respiratory condition. In October the following year, he had gall bladder surgery at Siriraj and it was there that he passed away on October 13, 2016.
“We set the official opening date for December 5, the day His Majesty King Bhumibol was born because our aim is that in 30 or 40 years, the future generations will learn and be appreciative to His Majesty’s great effort and dedication. The interior designs and decoration on every floor and in every corner will feature the late King’s quotes and teachings on different subjects ranging from social, culture, economic, education, environment, health, and so on. There will be sculptures by national artists. As for equipment, we intend to have three new radiation therapy machines, plus two old ones. Normally, it takes up to six months for cancer patients to get the treatment and sometimes they have to go to another province. The medical services available at the Navamindrabopitr 84th Anniversary Building will greatly improve the situation,” Prasit said.
Clinical Professor Pradit Panchavinnin, director of Siriraj Piyamaharajkarun Hospital, which caters to high-income patients, adds that the first year of Saving for Giving campaign was very well received. “More than 139,000 people participated in the campaign and we raised Bt111 million. This year we have produced 300,000 moneyboxes in the same designs as last year inspired the late King’s camera, a walkie-talkie radio communication device, and a jeep. The campaign will run for 45 days until January and we hope donors will set aside Bt10 per day so that each moneybox will contain Bt450. Our aim is to raise up to Bt135 million from the campaign. However, the souvenir is simply the symbol. Even if one cannot donate money, the key message here is that everyone can have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the much-beloved monarch in developing good habits of saving and giving,” says Pradit.
- Various channels for making donations are available.
- On the net through http://www.si.mahidol.ac.th/Th/navamin84/donate or www.savingforgiving.com
- Through the banks to the account of Siriraj Foundation for Navamindrabopitr 84th Anniversary Building.
- Find out more by calling (02) 4197646 and |(02) 419 7656