A Si Sa Ket native has been named outstanding rural doctor by Siriraj Hospital's faculty of medicine.
Kitipumi Chutasmit, director of Phu Sing Hospital, was yesterday presented with an award created in honour of the late Udom Posakrissana, professor emeritus and former dean of the faculty.
The 46-year-old was chosen from more than 26 candidates due to his dedication in working at a small hospital lacking high-end medical equipment to improve the quality of life for both Thai and Cambodian patients living along the border.
Dr Kitipumi has been working in the area to combat diseases such as HIV/Aids, dengue fever and malaria for the past 23 years.
The Siriraj Hospital graduate said he never wanted to work in rural areas when he began his career. He planned to specialise after completing his three-year rural internship.
However, shortages in the healthcare system and poverty in rural areas made him change his mind.v"In spite of all the hard work, I am happy and feel proud that my profession can really help people," he said.
The doctor said he had turned down opportunities to become a specialist and skipped many overseas training programmes mainly because of a chronic shortage of doctors at the 30-bed hospital he is responsible for.
He is the only medical doctor based at the hospital. When he started working at Phu Sing Hospital years ago, there was no infrastructure, telephones, or even transport running through the district, let alone access to healthcare.
Dr Kitipumi came up with the idea of using mobile clinics to provide medical services for patients with chronic diseases. Some were Cambodians crossing the border to seek treatment. "Every patient's life is precious, no matter the difference in culture, language and nationality," he said. "Thais and Cambodian are still brothers. Political unrest cannot change that."
For over 10 years, the doctor has contributed 3,000 baht of his salary to provide lunch meals and develop essential facilities and a welfare programme for his colleagues and patients at the hospital due to budget constraints.
Also, he opted for technology to boost the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare services at Phu Sing Hospital. Now, the health staff at this remote hospital can check patients' records and prescription orders online.
Dr Kitipumi also encourages patients to be aware of their right to information by explaining details about their health conditions. Consent forms have also been introduced to patients so they can learn about the treatment procedure required for each case. He believed sincere care for patients would help reduce doctor-patient disputes.
Although being a rural doctor has made him miss out on many opportunities, he has never regretted his choice or made plans to move on.
He said His Majesty the King's speech "Our Loss is Our Gain"convinced him to stay put in this remote northeastern province.
The proportion of doctors to the population is 1:20,000 compared with 1:800 in Bangkok, Dr Kitipumi said. "Imagine if everybody is ready to spare some time, then the profit will go to the public. "And the society we're living in will get better."