Yasothon Hospital, Thailand, has set a successful example of using Thai traditional medicines to solve the modern problem of waiting lists.
The introduction of traditional treatment, when combined with modern medicine, can reduce the number of patients waiting for treatment, the hospital says.
"Traditional Thai medicine requires a small investment, but it could effectively treat patients physically and mentally with a holistic approach together with modern medicine," said Adikiat Iamworaniran, director of Yasothon Hospital.
This "East meets West" method is available to women following childbirth, patients with bone and joint problems as well as those with asthma and paralysis.
Dr Adikiat said traditional medicine could fill the gaps in modern medicine. It looked at curing diseases, and how related factors such as people's lifestyle and diet can cause illness.
For example, women who usually experience backache after giving birth would be better helped by therapeutic massage and herbal sauna treatment instead of depending on, for example, pain killers. By introducing alternative treatments for patients, the hospital can also reduce its costs with regard to Western medicine prescriptions for patients under the universal health care scheme, he said.
However, traditional medicine was still not well recognised mainly due to lack of support from the state and understanding among doctors trained in modern medicine.
Sukanya Yangsila, a doctor who practices traditional medicine, says she regrets the fact that Thais adopt a narrow mindset to Thai medicine. Many are to attached to the idea that they need modern drugs to be cured.
"It's such a shame that when people hear the words Thai traditional medicine they think about massage and spa treatments first.
"Thai traditional medicine is much more than that.
"Therapeutic massage, traditional medicine and herbal pharmacy passed down the generations can explain the cause and result of illnesses," she said.
A combination of modern medicine and traditional treatment can help patients recuperate faster than modern medicine alone.
It could also reduce excess drug consumption, which has driven up the state pharmaceutical bill.
Ms Sukanya, who works for a private hospital in the Northeast, said she studied anatomy, physiology and pathology at Abhaibhubejhr College of Thai Traditional Medicine for five years. Doctors in modern medicine also spend five years on those subjects.
Students of Thai traditional medicine also have to pass an exam to get a medical licence from the Medical Council of Thailand.
Despite the fact that doctors working in this field are well-trained, the Thai public does not give the profession much respect.
No career path exists for doctors in this field working at state hospitals. Pay is also low. Unsurprisingly, most work with private hospitals instead.
Ms Sukanya said the Public Health Ministry should do more to promote traditional medicine, incorporate it into the national health system, and support those working in the profession.
"Thai traditional medicine is the wisdom our ancestors.
"If we do not take care of it, who will?" she said.
Source: Bangkok Post