When Saw Myint started having more severe back pain than usual for a woman of her age, she knew where to go for help. Her whole family relies on the Kwai River Christian Hospital for care because they know that the doctors are friendly, and the staff are kind to patients. Originally from Burma (now Myanmar) Saw Myint has been living near the hospital in Huay Malai, on the Thailand side of the Thai-Burma border, since she was 20. Now 76, she is still able to receive care and support from hospital staff – and to be spoken to in the Karen language, which some staff members speak in addition to Thai. Pharmacist Sirikanlaya Prakunwiset is one of the Karen-speaking staff members and she is proud to note, “It makes them trust me and makes them feel happy to talk with me. If we speak the same language, we can get more accurate information [than if we were using a translator]”. When staff like Sirikanlaya can talk directly with patients about symptoms and problems, they can provide better care.
That’s the hallmark of the Kwai River Christian Hospital: high quality, compassionate care for all patients, regardless of where they are from. Founded as a clinic by American Christian missionaries in 1960, and now sponsored by The Church of Christ in Thailand, KRCH is the only hospital for more than 150 miles on either side of the border that has a full-time surgeon. Altogether, the Hospital team receives about 20,000 visits per year for inpatient and outpatient services. Patients include Thai families from the surrounding area as well as asylum seekers and socioeconomic migrants from Myanmar.
In the spirit of ensuring high quality care for everyone in the region, the reach of the Hospital goes beyond its current building in Huay Malai. Doctors travel to a clinic about 20 miles away at a border crossing where they screen Burmese patients and can refer them to the main site for advanced care. The patients come from many different backgrounds. Patients are of all ages, from newborn babies to the elderly, and they come from several ethnic and religious minorities, including a significant number from Muslim families, who are now much persecuted in Myanmar. In acknowledging the recent harm and chaos on the Burma-Bangladesh border, the Kwai River Christian Hospital is noteworthy for its seven decades of welcoming and care for any and all care seekers and patients. For example, when Karen and other refugees who live in nearby Ban Don Yang camp need advanced medical support or surgery, they come to Kwai River Christian Hospital.
Always looking for ways to expand health care and services, KRCH Director and Manager Pranote Buskorn-reungrat notes that he is in the process of forming partnerships with a hospital in Burma to explore how to better serve families across the border, so they do not need to make the long journey to Huay Malai, especially if they need urgent care. The crown jewel of the Hospital network, however, is still being built. It’s a modern, 59-bed hospital now under construction with significant financial and technical support from USAID American Schools and Hospital’s Abroad. Situated in nearby Sangkhlaburi town, the new facility will be the first in 150 miles to have an Intensive Care Unit. Its maternity ward will have a nursery for special needs infants. It will have the equipment to perform minimally invasive surgery. The hopes of Kwai River Christian Hospital staff and patients are high: they are eagerly awaiting the opening of the site with a larger staff, better technology and more medicine than the current facility, all aimed at continuing to provide high-quality care to everyone who needs it. This means that Saw Myint’s family – and thousands of her neighbors on both sides of the Thai-Burma border – will be able to rely on this welcoming community institution for generations to come.
(For more information please contact LWilson@cwsglobal.org)