Mae Tao Clinic serves as a training facility for health workers along the border and for health workers of ethnic health organisations of Eastern Burma. We have a track record of training health workers utilising our skilled trainers and technical consultants, including Burmese doctors, senior medics, and international professionals. Due to the vast number of patients visiting Mae Tao Clinic, we function as a practical training site, too. Trainees come from all over Burma to attend trainings at MTC.
Health workers, doctors, or medical students arriving on the Thai-Burma border in 1989, no matter their specialty, were all responding to the same emergency – Malaria. There were simply not enough medical facilities to attend to the continual flow of new arrivals to the border. Eventually, each refugee camp established its own health care facility, but staffed with only a few doctors and senior medics it was not enough. After about a year on the border, the health workers of the different camps began to discuss providing coordinated medical trainings, which led to the first formal medical trainings.
At this point MTC was focused on offering referral services to patients, with Dr. Cynthia providing informal medical ‘discussions’ in the evenings as a means of training, with visiting doctors helping when they were there. These informal trainings went on for over a year. After a couple years on the border, with acute treatment fairly well established, it was identified that lacking not only at the clinic, but all along the border were maternal and child health care services.
A 6-week Maternal and child health care training, the first formal training conducted by Dr. Cynthia, was conducted in 1991 in Burma as it was identified that the services were most desperately needed in the IDP areas. The training focused on maternal health, especially safe motherhood and family planning. After this first training, some of the trainees who had come from different villages along the border decided to return to MTC, where a more comprehensive maternal and child health care training would be conducted. The training was run in 1992 and 1993 with a 3-month theory and a 3-month practical portion. Most of the participants of these first two years had previous health care training and so this acted as a specialised upgrade training. By 1994 this was no longer sufficient; there was a great demand for more basic health care workers, and so theme was expanded to 4-month theoretical, 4-month practical segments, covering basic health care so that individuals without any previous training could join the programme. The increases still were not providing adequate training for these new participants however, so the first 10-month Primary Health Care Training was offered in 1995/1996. This training was conducted for five consecutive years, with trainees from other ethnic groups and various camps along the border joining in.
In 2001, Burma Medical Association and the National Health Education Committee held a joint conference where the decision was made to begin coordinating the training programmes offered on the border, and to develop standardised curriculums for these programmes. It was concluded that all health organisations should be providing two levels of training: a 6-month Community Health Worker (CHW) Training, and a 2-year Health Assistant (HA) Training. MTC, BMA, BPHWT and NHEC began collaboration to develop standardised training curriculums. A commitment was made to ongoing Laboratory Training, as well as to standardise a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) training curriculum.
The growth and development of training programmes continued in this fashion – an organic response to the continually changing needs of the growing population on the border. The MTC Training Programme has grown to cooperate with partner organisations for joint training programmes. Current and previous training programmes include Maternal and Child Health, Emergency Obstetric Care Training (EmOC), Medic Health Worker Training, Nurse Aide Training, Prosthetic care, Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI), Eye Care, Dental, and Comprehensive Reproductive Health, as well as an Internship Programme for previously trained health care workers to come for skill refreshment and upgrade.
There are frequent short workshops available on topics such as: Leadership Training, Supervisor Workshops, Gender-based Violence, Community Management, Training of Trainers for Integrated Management of Newborn and Childhood Illness (IMNCI), Master of Trainer in Basic Emergency Obstetric and New-born Care, Human Rights, Environmental Health and Continuing Medical Education (CME).
To ensure formal recognition of health workers’ skills and knowledge, MTC strongly advocates for its staff to enrol in and graduate from accredited courses, such as Certificate in Public Health, accredited by Thammasat University, Thailand and the Certificate of Health Facility Management accredited by Khon Kaen University, Thailand. Our midwives can enrol in the Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics (ALSO) course, in cooperation with our partner organisation SMRU.
As MTC is a member of the Health Systems Strengthening (HSS) Eastern Burma consortium, training and capacity building is not only carried out for MTC staff, but also for health workers of 8 partner organisations within the HSS project. Members of the HSS consortium are collaborating to jointly train their health workforce, so they can deliver quality health care in the ethnic areas of Eastern Burma. As a strategy for future recognition and integration of their workforce in the formal Burmese health system, HSS partners are actively involving the Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) in training curriculum review development.
Although the trainings are incredibly beneficial to the populations living both inside Burma and along its many borders, the fact that such a diverse group of individuals come to MTC for the trainings also poses one of the biggest challenges – that is to say, training a group of individuals from various social, cultural and political backgrounds, with different education and skill levels.
(Last Update: 27 September 2018)