Mae Tao Clinic also has a remote clinic – the Pa Hite Clinic – inside Burma, in the Karen State. The Pa Hite Clinic and it’s four smaller branches treat a displaced population of 10,000 people, spread throughout 62 villages, for curative, preventative, mother and child health and training new health workers.
The clinic that is now based in Pa Hite, in Karen State, has had many incarnations. Prior to being located in Pa Hite, it was at different locations in the surrounding area, but was attacked by the SPDC several times, and medics and villagers were forced to flee. Each time the clinics were attacked they had prior warning and were able to save most of their supplies by hiding them in the jungle – although sometimes they were destroyed by elephants or other animals in the area.
Prior to the establishment of the clinic in the area, traditional beliefs regarding medical practices were prevalent; beliefs which were sometimes at odds with western practices. The community now regards western health care in a more positive light; however, traditional beliefs are still incorporated into community attitudes toward health. Pa Lae Paw remembers that some villagers had come to the clinic to get help for a pregnant woman who had been sick for a week. Staff from the clinic made the trip out to her village to render assistance. They explained that she needed to go to the clinic for treatment or she would die. Before she would go, she wanted to consult the spirits in the jungle. Knowing she would die if she did not go, a medic hid in the jungle and, posing as a spirit, told her that she must go. When she got to the clinic, she was treated for malaria and given two blood transfusions. The baby was born safe and well and they are both still alive today.
These days, the training for community health workers creates a formal integration of the two practices. For example, certain traditional beliefs regarding prevention and hygiene can be effective and are highlighted. The health workers learn how to complement the services of traditional healers and work side by side with them.
Pa Lae Paw says that she is unsure about the future of Pa Hite clinic, she says that, at least for now, the situation is stable. Back in 2001 the SPDC attacked the area and the medics had to flee, but Pa Lae Paw asserts that they were merely lucky that time as the KNLA protected the area and saved the clinic, adding that the security situation and the isolation of the clinic are some of the most difficult challenges they face.