Meet Our Patients (42): Ma May Win’s Story – Urine Infection

49-year-old Ma May Win felt fever and had difficulty urinating for a while. She was afraid of visiting Thai clinics as she couldn’t afford the medical bills and has risks of getting arrested because she is undocumented in Thailand.  So she just took painkillers. Her husband was worried about her as her symptoms got exacerbated…

Ma May Win is 49-year-old, having 6 children. Two of her children are working in Bangkok and another two are attending Children’s Development Centre (CDC) school[1]. Her two youngest children are attending a primary school in Mae Sot area.[2] She is from Mon State,[3] Burma/Myanmar 15 years ago. She and her husband work as daily workers, mainly taking care the garden of a house. Her Husband was provided work permit, as known as Certificate of Identity (CI) but she doesn’t have the official work permit as they cannot afford two.[4] Luckily, they are provided accommodation by an employer, which helps them to scrape a living although their monthly income is lower than that of minimum salary – they make around THB 5,000 to 6,000 (USD 156 – 187).[5] There are around 30 to 40 migrant workers living near their house. Most of them do not have work permits and thus they visit Mae Tao Clinic whenever they have health problems as they cannot afford medical bills and are afraid of being arrested.


Ma May Win has regularly visited the clinic for years due to her health problems. This time she received a consultation at Medical Outpatient Department (Medical OPD) because she is feverish, has back pain and difficulty urinating. After Medical OPD staff examined her, the staff diagnosed her with Urine Infection (UTI). Although she had the symptom for a while she didn’t go to any Thai clinics nearby but bought painkillers and took them. As her symptom gets exacerbated, her husband suggested that she should go visit the Mae Tao Clinic for treatment. As a matter of fact, she’s visited the clinic with the same symptoms for several times.


“It is not easy to miss work just because I’m sick. We have duties to be done a daily basis. On top of that, going out of the house compound needs courage as I have no paper in Thailand. I’m taking a risk of getting arrested on my way to the clinic. Moreover, coming to the clinic costs around THB 200 (USD 6.2), which is one day salary,” said Ma May Win during the interview.


She received treatment and was told to come back one week later. Medical OPD staff wants to make sure if the infection is mitigated by taking proper medication.

“I am happy to get treatment. I feel like I’m always better. I’d like to be healthy enough soon so that I can work and look after my children. My husband is doing all duties that should be shared with me. I feel really sorry.” Although she looked better after the treatment but seemed to have a heavy heart as she feels sorry for her husband to work hard because of her. “Mae Tao Clinic is the only place not only me but also many migrant workers can rely on when we have health issues. I cannot thank enough to services that the clinic has provided to people like me.”

Mae Tao Clinic sees an increase in patient caseload with non-communicable diseases (NCD), with the top-5 of most common diagnoses making up for 80% of the cases diagnosed. 

Most common non-communicable diseases (2017)

Diagnosis # of Patient % of total NCD
Diabetes 299 29.6%
Hypertension 226 22.4%
Thyroid 102 10.1%
Asthma 96 9.5%
Epilepsy 86 8.8%
Other 202 20%
Total 1,011 100%

Mae Tao Clinic has referred 64 patients with chronic non-communicable diseases patients to different government facilities in Burma for continuation of life-long regular treatment. Patients can decide where to go and Mae Tao Clinic facilitates the referral. However, some patients cannot bear the costs associated with government treatment and return to Mae Tao Clinic. We also need to further develop the feedback system between MTC and referral facilities.

[1] CDC school: While Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) began as a humble health service delivery organisation, it has evolved into an umbrella social services network for refugees, migrant workers and other displaced Burmese. As a focal point of these activities, we find that child protection is a rapidly growing area of need. The Children’s Development Centre (CDC) has continued to provide education to displaced children from Burma. In the academic year 2017-2018, 880 students are enrolled.

[2] Mae Sot is a city in western Thailand that shares a border with Burma to the west. It is notable as a trade hub and for its substantial population of Burmese migrants and refugees. Mae Tao Clinic is located in Mae Sot [Wikipedia:]

[3] Mon State is an administrative division of Myanmar. It lies between Kayin State to the east, the Andaman Sea to the west, Bago Region to the north and Tanintharyi Region to the south, also having a short border with Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Province at its south-eastern tip. [Wikipedia:]

[4] The CI (Certificate of Identity) is for migrants who don’t have a Burmese ID card and household registration document at hand. A CI allows migrants to travel freely in order to obtain necessary documents and ultimately apply for a Burmese Passport.

[5] Although THB 310 – 330 (USD 9.9 – 10.5) is the minimum daily wage in Thailand, many migrant workers receive lower income as many of them work without work permit.