Kanchanaburi's raft of assistance

Kanchanaburi's raft of assistance

New floating medical unit able to provide on-the-spot help at dam

Ready for action: A floating raft serves as a medical unit providing medical services for sick and injured tourists at Srinagarind dam in Kanchanaburi's Sri Sawat district.
Ready for action: A floating raft serves as a medical unit providing medical services for sick and injured tourists at Srinagarind dam in Kanchanaburi's Sri Sawat district.

As tourists were enjoying water activities and having a good time on rafts set aside for accommodation and restaurants at Srinagkarind dam in Kanchanaburi, a group of people remained vigilant as they stood ready to provide first aid for anyone suffering accidents or health problems in the area.

They were staff working on the first day of operation of a new floating medical unit at the dam.

Srinakarind dam in Sri Sawat district is known to be one of the province's tourism magnets.

The dam draws 800,000 tourists a year and is home to 600 towing rafts which serve as accommodation. On the bank of the dam, 11 resorts with tethered accommodation rafts attract visitors to stay in an area where 140 tourism businesses operate.

At the dam, sometimes people have accidents while on the water or suffer from sudden illnesses. There have been accidental falls into the water that have resulted in deaths from drowning, leading health authorities to seek ways to provide a swift first aid service.

Hence the idea of a "floating clinic", supervised by the Public Health Ministry's Health Region 5, which aims to promote safety tourism in the area, came to fruition

The campaign was spearheaded by Pannet Pangputhipong, inspector-general of the local office, who worked with various agencies, including the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, Royal Thai Police, Naval Medical Department, National Institute for Emergency Medicine, Marine Department, Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation as well as some private hospitals.

They are committed to making sure that the floating clinic project, known as the "Sri Sawat model", is fully up to speed and able to provide a comprehensive service by next year.

Kanchanaburi is the first province that has launched such a service.

The deputy governor, Somjate Chongsuphavisarnkit, said Srinagarind dam has seen a rising number of travellers every year, which has resulted in the burgeoning number of resorts, rafting operators and water play activities.

Although preventive measures are in place, tragic accidents do happen, which are detrimental to the province's reputation, he noted.

The floating clinic project, Mr Somjate said, was set up to provide help to people or tourists who are troubled by accidents or sudden ailments.

"This will help boost tourist confidence and as well as build awareness of appropriate health and safety measures among tourism operators," the deputy governor said.

"This is a model for public health service development when dealing with water accidents. It adds to safety of the dam and enables victims to receive help quickly.

"As well as treating tourists, local residents will also benefit from the services of the clinic," Mr Somjate said.

Dr Pannet said the project was approved by the Public Health Ministry's executives on Nov 21.

The provincial authorities signed a memorandum of understanding last Tuesday with various agencies for the scheme's cooperation, and the clinic was launched by Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn yesterday.

Medical practitioners, nurses, volunteers and rescue staff have been deployed to work at the clinic, Dr Pannet said, adding that it is fully equipped and able to deal with most cases.

According to the inspector-general, the services on the raft must be well maintained and referrals of patients to larger facilities must also be an option depending on the nature of the case.

According to him, the floating clinic will be equipped with modern and effective communication technology so that it can act as an effective hub should a disaster strike.

People on the raft can connect with citizens and emergency services via radio communication devices, mobile phones and the internet.

They can also share information about their services with the Health Data Centre, supervised by the Public Health Ministry.

The facility is powered by a solar cell system which charges during the day and means it can operate even during power outages in the region.

It has separate zones for ordinary patients and emergency cases.

The facility has beds for medical checks, lifesaving equipment, respirators, an automated external defibrillator, medical supplies as well as referral vessels, including jet skis and speedboats.

Dr Pannet said Kanchanaburi governor Jirakiat Phumsawat also wants to set up nearby rafts that could serve as helicopter landing pads in order to reduce the time it takes to transport the most severe cases to larger hospitals.

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