Despite significant progress in improving public health and efforts undertaken by the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) in the past decade, many challenges remain. These include issues related to communicable diseases, the growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases, maternal mortality, life expectancy and access to health care services for ethnic groups. These require efforts to build more robust and effective medical care services that are in line with the country’s socio- economic growth and increased demand for public health.
Towards a Solution
Thailand believes that no one should be left behind in the development process. Since the 1970s, Thailand has been working hard to ensure that development in Asia focuses on sustainability and reducing regional disparities to the extent possible. In this regard, Thailand, through the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), which is part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been working closely with the Government of Lao PDR in the area of public health, wherein Thailand has extensive expertise, through various forms of development cooperation.
This cooperation began with a series of trainings on more comprehensive development cooperation, which led to the establishment of the Bokeo Provincial Hospital Development Project in 2007. The project provides the hardware, which includes construction of an in-patient department (IPD) and a maternal and child care building and medical equipment; and the software, which includes a series of training courses and on-the-job training for medical officials from Bokeo Provincial Hospital. The goal was to contribute to improving Lao PDR’s public health system and medical services.
Phase I focused on building an outpatient department (OPD) and setting up the OPD system. Following satisfactory results from the first phase, Thailand and Lao PDR agreed to further strengthen the hospital’s capacity, particularly in the area of maternal and child health. This led to the implementation of Phase II, which involved three main components: (1) construction of the IPD and maternal and child care building; (2) development of human resources in the area of maternal and child care; and, (3) provision of medical equipment for the IPD and maternal and child care.
Project implementation has evidenced that success depends on close cooperation between the two countries. Thailand places great importance on ‘inclusive and participatory development cooperation’. In other words, it considers partners’ engagement throughout the process, from project design to implementation and post-project evaluation. From the project’s early stages, Thailand and Lao PDR have been working together closely to ensure that the project is demand-driven. During implementation, central government agencies and local authorities in both countries have played a key role in shaping, adjusting and re- adjusting operations to ensure that they correspond to the needs of the hospital and local communities.
In addition, through a series of training courses for hospital medical officials (provided by Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital) and training on the acquisition and use of medical equipment (provided by Somdej Phra Yupparaj Chiang Khong Hospital in Chiangrai Province, Thailand), interactions among local agencies from both countries have strengthened friendly relationships between Thailand and Lao PDR when it comes to long-term cooperation. More importantly, the project has helped create a network of border health offices, which include effective referral, EMS and knowledge transfer. In addition, Thailand believes that the provision of human resources and infrastructure development would benefit both the people of Bokeo province and residents of nearby areas.
The Bokeo Provincial Hospital Development Project has paved the way for sustainable development of public health and medical services in Bokeo Province. It offers solid infrastructure for providing medical services in Bokeo and nearby provinces, as well as a systematic networking system between Thai and Lao PDR medical authorities. This system will continue to operate after the project ends, thereby ensuring its long-term sustainability and success.
The South-South cooperation framework has enabled this project to improve the quality of public health services and equip medical officials with knowledge and skills, allowing the people of Lao PDR to achieve a better standard of living, as indicated by SDGs 3 and 17.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 17.6, 17.9, 17.16
Countries/ territories involved: Lao PDR, Thailand
Supported by: TICA
Implementing entities: TICA and Ministry of Public Health of the Kingdom of Thailand
Name: Ms. Krongkwan Traitongyoo, Counsellor, Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA)