By Pratch Rujivanarom
On Friday, 2,079 doctors from every public medical school gathered at the draw-lots ceremony to find out where they will be working. The lucky ones got to choose their hospital, while the others have to go where they are told. The influx of doctors will relieve the medical-staff shortage in rural areas and help the new doctors gain precious experience on the job.
The Nation had an opportunity to monitor this important ceremony to determine where the doctors will be working for the next three years as a way of paying back their six-year medical school government scholarship.
Every year there are always concerns many new graduates will not choose to serve the term in rural hospitals, but many are ready to meet the challenge.
One of them is a graduate from Prince of Songkla University, who preferred to go by her nickname, “Klao”. She chose to work at Yala, the deep South province long plagued by the insurgency.
“I want to go to Yala because I want to help the people there. As the news about the insurgency scares most people and not many doctors want to work in that area, it is very necessary for me to take care of the people there,” Klao said.
Klao, who is a Buddhist from Nakhon Si Thammarat province, said she was not afraid her religion would cause her problems working in the Muslim-dominated region including being a target in an attack, as she had visited Yala before and the people there were very nice.
“I’m not afraid of the insurgency, because they do not target medical staff. My only problem is that the people in the South are usually stub?born and often do not do what the doctor suggests,” she said.
Dr Phongsakorn Thatnaraphan, a dentistry graduate from Chiang Mai University, will work in a rural area as well.
“I registered to work at Sakhon Nakhon province in the north-east?ern region because I want to use my knowledge from medical school to help people in a rural area who have less opportunity to receive dentistry care than the people in the city,” Phongsakorn said.
“If I can adjust myself to the area well, I intend to be a dentist in Sakhon Nakhon after the three-year period [is over].”
Roman Luewittawat from Siriraj Medical School intends to work in Sing Buri or Ayutthaya.
“I don’t mind if I have to work in a faraway province, because I can treat patients anywhere, but I choose to work close to Bangkok because I can drive to work from my home,” Roman said.
Kongkiat Ratanatikul, the father of a new dentist from Mahidol University, said he did not mind where his daughter went.
“I am sure that six years in medical school prepared my daughter well for the first time working in a rural area,” Kongkiat said.
Dr Ittaporn Kanacharoen, deputy secretary-general of the Medical Council of Thailand, stated that the new doctors would be the biggest factor in solving the medical staff shortage in rural regions.
“Currently we can produce new doctors at a high capacity and it is more than enough to replace the retired doctors and fill up rural hospitals. However, the positions in the rural areas are scarce, because we don’t have enough money to hire more doctors in rural areas,” Ittaporn said.
“We have to invest more to hire more staff. It is not the hardship of [working in] rural areas that keeps the doctors away – it is the financial problem.”
He said the goal of educating people on how to treat themselves for minor complaints to relieve the burden on hospitals was not yet a success.