Medical team boosts mental-health care for rural residents in Phitsanulok

national July 17, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

INSTEAD of being dubbed “mad folks”, as many as 24 people with mental-health issues now enjoy a normal life thanks to an inter-professional practice at a small hospital in their rural hometown.



“My sister is now able to take care of herself. She can cook and do housework,” Chamras Pannim said. “All I have to do for her is bring medicine from the hospital and let a doctor give my sister regular injections.” 

Located in Phitsanulok’s Bang Rakam district, the Plak Rad Hospital has done so well on this front that it has become a role model. Recently, the Health Professional Education Foundation came to the hospital to study its treatment model up close. 

Plak Rad Hospital’s success owes a lot to its inter-professional practice. 

“We have developed an inter-professional team with the help of allies,” said the hospital’s director, Wanpen Tanweeraphan. 

Village health volunteers are assigned to monitor local people and alert the hospital if they detect anyone with a mental disorder. After public-health officials at the hospital receive a report, they immediately head to a patient’s home and evaluate their condition. 

“The evaluation will determine whether the patients can receive medical care from the hospital or if it will be better to send them to a bigger, more specialised medical facility,” Wanpen explained. 

If the evaluation suggests that the inter-professional team at Plak Rad Hospital can help, |nurses from larger hospitals will provide training. Doctors will also be informed so that they can plan treatments. 

Pharmacists will dispense medication to patients mostly on a monthly basis so that patients or their relatives do not have to come frequently to the hospital to pick up the necessary medicine. “We also have physical therapists who will visit and provide medical services to patients. They will also train village health volunteers to improve the care,” Wanpen said. The inter-professional practice team also includes psychologists who provide care to patients and consulting services to hospital officials and village health volunteers. 

Woman locked in her own house

“In the event that patients develop a serious condition, we have laid down clear guidelines. Local officials must immediately rush the patient to the hospital,” the director said.

According to Wanpen, her hospital started addressing mental disorder issues seriously about a decade ago after her team came across a psychiatric patient who was locked up in her own house.

“She was in a mess when we found her,” Wanpen recounted. “But after we extended help, she can live a normal life. She can go to authorities to renew her national identification card, something she had long been unable to do.” 

Wanpen’s devotion to help |people with mental health problems comes from a desire to uphold their human dignity. 

“Illnesses should not pose obstacles to patients in living their life,” she said. 

Wanpen said inter-professional practice is very helpful when a problem arises because team members from various fields cooperate to quickly solve it. Prof Dr Wanicha Chuenkongkaew, the Health Professional Education Foundation’s general secretary, recommended that Naresuan University arrange an educational trip to Plak Rad Hospital to study its inter-professional practice. 

Holistic approach more efficient

“We want to encourage such practice because it is going to teach health professionals about teamwork and holistic approach,” Wanicha said. “If you work separately, healthcare will have too many procedures. If you work as a team, delivery of medical services is faster and more efficient.” 

The team approach also makes for a more collegial atmosphere among professionals. Tassawan Lammawong, a certified nurse, admitted that she often found the presence of medical lecturers intimidating. 

“That gives me stress,” she conceded. “I sometimes feel overwhelmed and unable to take note of every order they issue. So, I think if the sense of teamwork is present and communications are easier, that is best.”

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