In sickness, poverty and in wealth
A cashed-up, state-run hospital is giving private hospitals a run for their money by offering similar quality for a fraction of the cost
King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital (KCMH) may soon rank as the premier state-run hospital in Thailand — making it your No.1 choice for 30-baht healthcare — as a huge investment in healthcare brings the nation’s public hospitals racing into the modern age.
Its new building not only provides roving robots that offer online consultations (“face time”) with physicians, among other cutting-edge technology, but also digital-era speed and efficiency and an unprecedented boost in treatment capacity and delivery time to patients.
To cap things off, there is a helipad on the roof for emergency cases.
Analysts say the equipment and skill of doctors is on par with — or above — Bangkok’s Bumrungrad Hospital, arguably the most famous international hospital in Thailand.
A patient care programme includes robots which patients can use to book ‘face time’ with doctors.
While KCMH may lack Bumrungrad’s 5-star hotel gloss, the recent investment means lower waiting times in a nation where state hospitals are notoriously overcrowded.
With a spike in the number of patients overstretching its medical and healthcare resources, KCMH, one of the primary sanatoriums in the country, is adding a new building that will reputedly be positioned as the region’s newest medical power house.
The Bhumisirimangkalanusorn Building project, once its is fully operational, is expected to be a model of efficiency aided by the most advanced medical equipment.
Launched in 1914, the hospital has clung to its position as a leading medical nerve centre where millions have come in search of treatment for ailments ranging from the simple cold to complicated surgeries.
It soon found it was hitting maximum capacity and was in need of more modern machines to treat patients and streamline its internal administration for better handling of routine tasks.
The new building — dubbed the largest medical hub in Asean — is designed to answer these problems. The 12.5-billion-baht (US$376 million) investment is being jointly financed by the state and the Thai Red Cross Society. Construction began in 2007.
The 29-storey facility has opened on a phased basis since last year and is due to be fully inaugurated by Christmas. It has over 1,250 beds and offers fully-integrated medical services under one roof.
It recently hosted the 1st Asean Medical Education Conference 2017 to mark the centenary of Chulalongkorn University (CU), a forum attended by specialists in various fields from Thailand and overseas.
The building project — a decade in the making — won the name “Bhumisirimangkalanusorn” in honour of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. The Thai name serves as an auspicious tribute to both patrons.
Hospital director Suttipong Wacharasindhu, who also serves as dean of CU’s Faculty of Medicine, said it was urgently needed.
“There were not enough beds and rooms to accommodate the staggering number of patients we were seeing,” he said. “We were also strained by our limited resources in handling emergency or intensive care unit (ICU) patients.
He said the building is equipped to care for complicated ailments.
Apart from its nuclear medicine imaging systems section on the second floor, there are X-ray, vascular and interventional radiology sections on the 7th, a general patient unit on the 19th and single patient rooms on the 28th floor.
It also features six “medical excellence” centres that specialise in complex illnesses and procedures; GI endoscopy; strokes; critical care nephrology and epilepsy; organ transplantation; and stem cells and cell therapy.
Another 15 medical units will open soon, Dr Suttipong said.
When at full capacity it will house over 1,600 physicians and 2,100 nurses. ICU patients will be individually cared for by at least one nurse, the hospital said.
Dr Suttipong appears keen to embrace digitalisation to file patients’ data and medical records to reduce paper and manpower.
The Suan Rommanee garden provides recreational space for patients and families.
X-ray results are now compiled in the digital files of each patient, making X-ray film obsolete. Pneumatic telecar tubes, or containers for delivering paperwork, are used to send documents between medical units, eliminating the need for messengers, the hospital said.
At the Stroke Centre, two moving robots are on standby to provide bedside assistance to patients who need to communicate with absent doctors. A built-in monitor enables patients to face-time with their physician for online consultations. The screen also lets physicians consult one another on complicated medical procedures.
The new building also houses the largest batch of top-rank radiology equipment in the country. This includes four magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, four computed tomography (CT scan) machines, X-ray and blood-drawing units and a blood bank.
There will be 58 beds for the ICU patients and 62 operating theatres. The surgery rooms for operations on cerebral nerves offer MRIs that scan patients brains so doctors can see exactly how precise and successful the surgery has been performed.
Dr Suttipong speaks of strict guidelines for safety, hygiene, speed and convenience. The 14th floor will be turned into a recreational park called Suan Rommanee. Some of the space will be designated for people of different faiths to practise religious activities.
Patient registration is done by a computerised system to minimise the use of paper and messengers.
Jirayapa Muttisat, a patient convalescing at the new building, said she was transferred to the hospital for kidney transplant last year after she had been receiving treatment at Chon Buri Hospital since 2010.
Her transplant operation was successful but she needed to stay at the hospital longer than other patients with the same condition as her husband, who has a different blood type, donated one of his kidneys — meaning her condition must be closely monitored, she said.
Ms Jirayapa said KCMH researched a number of similar cases to develop the medical knowledge to design the best treatment available for this ailment.
Dr Suttipong said the hospital also doubles as knowledge hub for medical students from the CU’s Faculty of Medicine and nursing students of the Srisavarindhira Thai Red Cross Institute of Nursing.
The hospital is also home to research materials and knowledge in pharmacology, medicine, anesthesiology and microbiology, he said.
It has co-hosted conferences to enhance treatment techniques with medical institutes in Asean, Europe and the United States.
A blood bank serves patients. photos by Somchai Poomlard
Blood samples, medicine and documents are sent via a pneumatic telecar tube.
The radiology department has the most advanced equipment and tools.