Only 35 kilometres away from Chiang Mai, Lamphun is a perfect location to accommodate Chiang Mai’s expansion, particularly in terms of medicine. The Chiang Mai Medical and Health Hub project was initiated to accommodate health tourism. The infrastructure, the geography, the culture and the long-standing expertise in health sciences of CMU’s Faculty of Medicine are the selling points that attract the attention of foreigners with high purchasing power who look for premium quality medical care, as well as long term stay and travel.
Another important mission of the Faculty of Medicine is the service of Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital, also known as Suandok Hospital. It is the largest public hospital in the Northern region with service covering 17 Northern provinces and neighbouring countries. Due to its vital role in local health care, there is a need for academic expansion to develop the skills of the healthcare professionals and accommodate upcoming changes, giving rise to the establishment of the Hariphunchai Medical Centre, located in Sri Bua Ban subdistrict, Mueang district, Lamphun province.
A new hospital in Lamphun for better care coverag
A part of the Sri Bua Ban subdistrict is located in the Mae Thi-Mae Tip-Mae San National Forest Reserve. Once degraded, it was granted to CMU by the Royal Forest Department for use in the university’s academic expansion since 1992. Afterwards, the CMU Hariphunchai Education Centre, Lamphun Province was founded on a massive 160-acre piece of land, suitable for the establishment of a new hospital, the Hariphunchai Medical Centre. Prof. Dr. Pongruk Sribanditmongkol, MD, Vice President, has explained that not only is the construction of the medical centre beneficial in terms of patient care, it is also a part of the university’s area development for academic expansion.
According to Prof. Dr. Pongruk Sribanditmongkol:
“The Hariphunchai Medical Centre is a project that was initiated along with the Medical Hub project, aiming to build a medical centre. The President, Clinical Prof. Niwes Nanthachit, saw that we already had a campus in Lamphun, so it would be of great service for Lamphun people if we expanded our healthcare service there as well. Also, it would be beneficial for our medical students by offering a more diverse learning experience than Chiang Mai. Thus, this location would be appropriate for constructing a 228-bed general hospital that is linked to Suandok Hospital. Patients of the Hariphunchai Medical Centre can be transferred to Suandok via a linked system. In addition to providing care in the local areas, this would also increase the opportunity for difficult cases to get advanced treatment and get transferred to Suandok instantly.”
The establishment of this new hospital in Lamphun corresponds to a finding that shows an aging population trend in the province. Thus, there is a need to prepare for an aging society. It starts with prepping young adults for active aging and creating a healthcare system to accommodate chronic and geriatric diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases and hypertension. The Hariphunchai Medical Centre will provide medical care for people in Lamphun and nearby provinces, expanding access to care and at the same time reducing their costs for coming to receive treatment in Chiang Mai.
Healthcare professional skill development to address society’s needs
The social, economic and cultural impacts affecting Thailand at present, such as the global economic and financial crisis or the fact that Thailand would fully become a complete aged society in 2025, have shifted the focus of CMU’s medical curriculum to the production of medical graduates that respond to society’s need through excellent quality education. This will accommodate the expansion and social changes, particularly the ASEAN community, while still supporting research on local health problems and environmental problems in the Northern region.
For these reasons, the Hariphunchai Medical Centre is a space that promotes learning and skill development for the healthcare professionals at the Faculty of Medicine, as specified earlier. It would lead to research about local illnesses, a diverse body of knowledge and response to local needs, just as Prof. Pongrak explained, expressing:
“We need to produce physicians with diverse knowledge, not just people who study only difficult diseases but may not be aware of local ones. Once the medical students are on duty at the centre, they would have a chance to encounter more general cases.”
Located on a 4.8-acre piece of land, the four-storey, 200-bed Hariphunchai Medical Centre has a beautiful design that blends in with the spectacular scenery of Lamphun and is currently under construction. Once completed, it will be a hospital that promotes the locals’ health, involving them in the human-centred healthcare service that addresses society’s needs. The end goal is to achieve the university’s mission of becoming a leading university with social responsibility and marching towards sustainable excellence.