I will be joining a group consisting of family physicians, nursing students, and physical therapists in providing free medical care to the rural communities of Sangkhlaburi District, about 7 hours drive north of Bangkok , Thailand. We will set up an ambulatory clinic, where the community can come and have their medical concerns addressed; translators speaking the local languages Thai, Karen, Mon, will be on site. To help provide a more comprehensive care, we will bring with us various medications including antibiotics, NSAIDs, anti-hypertensives, and topical medications.
We will be serving populations in the villages of Sangkhlaburi District. The area is a small town consisting of various ethnic groups, some of which include refugees fleeing from the Myanmar government. Community members may not have Thai citizenship and thus, resources such as healthcare are limited. Our mission trip will provide the Sangkhlaburi population much needed medical services.
Some have suggested that short term mission trips do more harm than good for the community served due to lack of continuity of care. That may be the case, however, the communities we will be serving do not have adequate healthcare access. For some, our ambulatory clinic may be the only healthcare the communities receive in a year, in 5 years, in 10 years. Even if I am unable to follow up on chronic illnesses with our short term clinic, I can address acute problems such as pneumonia. Therefore, despite our short stay, I believe we will make a positive impact on most of the community members’ lives.
Unfortunately, lack of healthcare access is not a foreign problem, it exists in the United States. Within the U.S. there is also limited access to healthcare be it in rural areas where there is a need for physicians or in urban centers where underserved populations lack healthcare. The need for healthcare is universal. The people I will meet, the patients I will treat, the medical needs I will encounter, will help me be a better physician who will be able to care for a wide patient population upon return to the U.S.
We set up clinics in Sangkhlaburi District, northwest of Bangkok. First day, clinic was in the local temples. We provided care for the monks and locals. One monk has had an inguinal hernia for over a year and was subsequently brought to the local hospital, where he was able to get referral for surgery. The following days, clinics were set up in remote villages, including one where access is cut off during rainy seasons. Each day, traveling to these villages, was quite an adventure. We drove through a stream at one point! At the villages, we saw various patients from a few months old to a couple decades old. Most of these patients do not have access to healthcare as they are not Thai citizens. We saw health concerns ranging from respiratory infections to musculoskeletal pain. Our team included a group of physical therapist students who provided patients with exercises that we hope will continue to benefit patients when we leave. In summary, our team provided medical care to various patient populations with limited access to healthcare, whether these barriers to access be geographic, financial, political, etc.