Our Public Relations Department provides information to patients as they arrive or leave the Clinic. The PR staff work together with department managers and seniors staff to organise the patients’ accommodation, and those who have to stay at MTC for prolonged periods of time.
By the late 1990’s, MTC had bloomed into something more than a small medical clinic. The MTC umbrella began to provide various social services, education, and community oriented services. The medical staff began to spend more time providing direction to patients on non-clinical issues, drawing their focus away from their clinical work. At the same time, there were a growing number of young people who had either arrived from Burma, migrant communities or refugee camps. These young people were articulate, energetic, and in search of opportunities to contribute. It was a natural to apply the skills of these young people to form a Public Relations Centre (PRC); but who could train them and be a leader? It proved difficult to find an appropriate leader for the undertaking, since only senior members in the clinic had a good understanding of security issues, how partner organisations worked, and how the various departments in the clinic functioned. The leader would need good communication and organisation skills.
Fortunately an All Burma Students Democratic Front leader who had plans to resettle agreed to lead the effort to set up the centre until his relocation. He coordinated with the various departments in the clinic, as well as with CBOs and trained a diverse staff. Staff diversity in the PRC was essential in order to communicate in all the ethnic languages used at the clinic, as well as to have staff with backgrounds ranging from migrant communities to refugee camps. The PRC was formed in 2003 in order to efficiently communicate information to the many patients coming to MTC.
When it started, the PRC consisted of a tin roof over a concrete floor. It was responsible for taking care of emergency patients and others who needed assistance, and for providing directions and information to patients.
The name, “Public Relations Centre” might be misleading, since the PRC has a much broader role which includes social services coordination. These services include: providing information to clinic patients, keeping records of vehicle traffic at the clinic for security reasons, assisting patients who are frail or cannot walk and caring for long-term patients, such as the mentally ill and the elderly. It also runs the clinic’s patient house and funeral service. Many who visit the clinic describe it as a “little village” – the PRC ensures that the environment is clean, organises festival events, and works to make the clinic a safe and culturally rich place where patients can recover. The PRC is also frequently the first point of contact for emergency medical patients arriving in the clinic, or those requiring referrals to other social services.
Public Relations Today
Today, the PRC has a small office added onto the original enclosure, and has a plethora of new responsibilities. In addition to providing information, they now also take care of MTC security. This involves recording the number plates of cars that come through the clinic, both for security reasons and to keep track of who has come in with patients in case of emergency. The PRC also has stretchers to tend to patients who are frail and cannot walk, as well as emergency patients, and it brings food to patients in IPD and Child IPD who cannot get their own. The PRC also organises the distribution of the clinic’s mail to the appropriate departments.
There are many challenges facing the department. For instance, they often have to help migrant workers whose employers have simply dropped them off at the clinic with no means of returning to their place of employment. The PRC will try to get in touch with the employer, and if that fails they will give the patient money for transport. The PRC’s greatest wish is to have an ambulance like the Thai hospitals have, in order to be able to collect patients who are too ill to travel and need transport to and from MTC.