Thailand’s Sky Doctor Project boosts emergency medical services in Phang Nga

Addressing the gathering, Health Minister Cholnan stressed the necessity of the Sky Doctor project for Phang Nga, emphasizing that the region’s status as a popular tourist destination requires a robust emergency medical infrastructure.

In response to the growing need for efficient emergency medical services in the popular tourist destination of Phang Nga, the permanent secretary of the Ministry, Opas Karnkawinpong, accompanied by Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew, observed a rehearsal of the innovative Sky Doctor project at the Koh Yao Witthaya School in Phang Nga’s Koh Yao district on Monday morning.

The Sky Doctor initiative aims to provide a rapid emergency medical airlift service, catering to the unique geographical challenges of Phang Nga, which encompasses an expansive sea area with several islands. During the rehearsal, the Ministry’s permanent secretary Opas Karnkawinpong, and Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew witnessed the coordination between medical professionals and aviation experts, ensuring a seamless response to emergencies in the region.

Addressing the gathering, Health Minister Cholnan stressed the necessity of the Sky Doctor project for Phang Nga, emphasizing that the region’s status as a popular tourist destination requires a robust emergency medical infrastructure. The area’s vast expanse, coupled with numerous islands, poses logistical challenges in providing timely medical assistance. Last year alone, Phang Nga welcomed around 2.61 million local and foreign tourists, contributing around 12 billion baht in revenue to the local economy.

The Sky Doctor project aims to enhance emergency response capabilities, particularly in cases where swift medical intervention is crucial. By utilizing medical airlift services, the initiative aims to overcome the geographical obstacles posed by the region’s unique landscape, ensuring that tourists and residents alike have access to prompt and effective medical care during times of emergencies.

The Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew said that the Sky Doctor project would lift the emergency medical services of Thailand to international standards. This would help in instilling confidence in the foreign tourists. The Sky Doctor project involves establishing a medical team via helicopter to remote areas or islands, ensuring timely treatment of the people and saving lives.

Underscoring the importance of the Sky Doctor project, the public health minister restated his ministry’s commitment to extending the services to cover all 13 public health areas nationwide. Opas asserted that at least five ambulance boats around Phang Nga islands have been commissioned by the public health ministry and has also established nine helicopter landing spots on the islands and in downtown Phang Nga for airlift in case of emergency.

Opas also provided details of the training efforts in Phang Nga. Around six teams have undergone the Basic Helicopter Emergency Medical Services Course. Two of these teams are stationed at the Takua Pa Hospital, two are stationed at Phang Nga Hospital, one at the Khoa Lak Centre, and another at the Kao Yao Chaiyapat Hospital. Reportedly the Sky Doctor teams were successful in transporting two patients who were suffering from aortic dissection, last year. One was transported to the Hat Yai Hospital and another one to Trang and they successfully received timely and effective treatment.

The National Institute for Emergency Medicine (NIEM) in collaboration with the Public Health Ministry, initiated this Sky Doctor project in the year 2009 and it has seen significant achievements as well. At least more than 400 operations have been performed since 2021 by the Sky Doctors, nearly 400 patients have been airlifted and delivered three organs. The plan to expand this program was announced by Cholnan, in September last year. This is to be done by setting up Sky Doctor teams within 100 days in every public health area across the nation.