Amid Thailand’s latest, record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases, various groups, associations, and networks are stepping up to the challenge.
The We Care Network spearheaded the “Covid Home Care” project to help people get the medical attention they need to stay safe during home isolation. We spoke with three volunteers of the We Care Network: Dr. Khanat Kruthkul, President of the Health and Elderly Establishment Confederation (HEC); Pradit Ruengdit, Editor-in-Chief of THAI-ASEAN PANORAMA (TAP) Magazine; and Santiphap Phoemmongkhonsap, Deputy Director of Anti-Fake News Center Thailand.
Thailand NOW: What is “Covid Home Care,” and how does it help tackle the current wave of COVID-19 in Thailand?
We Care: Eighty percent of COVID-19 patients in Thailand show little to no symptoms, and are admitted to field hospitals to receive treatment and prevent further transmission. However, due to the new wave of Delta variant outbreaks, field hospitals can no longer cope with the increasing number. Therefore, it becomes crucial for patients to utilize home isolation for treatment.
We Care Network’s “Covid Home Care” program has admitted up to 1,500 patients to date, with more than half of our patients having successfully recovered. This shows that our program has been efficient in facilitating effective home isolation. Currently, we are focusing our care on three patient groups:
- Citizens under 60 years of age and without congenital diseases, as they play an active role in home isolation self-care.
- Foreigners, expats, and those who cannot return home abroad, as they have difficulties accessing Thai public health services and communicating with medical personnel, due to the language barrier.
- Homeless, disabled, and mentally ill patients or vulnerable communities without internet access. We work with the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security on this target group, as they require more attentive care and may not be suitable for field hospitals.
TN: How did Covid Home Care begin?
WC: Our initial funding came from Dr. Khanat Kruthkul, who donated one million baht to kickstart this project. This capital allowed us to initiate the project and produce “Covid Care Boxes,” order drugs, and form our back office team, volunteer teams, and network.
As our friends received news of the project, they provided us with generous donations. This includes Thirachai Rattanakamolporn, CEO of Ditto Thailand; Sathien Setthasit, Chairman of Carabao Group; and former deputy premier Phinij Jarusombat, President of the Thai-Chinese Cultural and Relationship Council.
Initially, we announced we would produce 1,000 Covid Care Boxes. But with the influx of donations, we have enough money to keep the project moving forward, help more patients, and expand our network.
After we announced our mission to focus on patients, leaders of government and banking entities—including the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority, Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, Government Housing Bank, Government Savings Bank, and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB)—and their friends joined and invested in the project, which help further support our cause.
TN: How does Covid Home Care work?
WC: As 86% of Thais are already LINE users, we started a Covid Home Care LINE Official Account(@covidhomecare) and back-office systems to access as many patients as possible. The job of the LINE account is to administer and evaluate each patient and allow us to deliver our Covid Care Boxes and other medical essentials according to their needs. We closely monitor all our patients through our volunteers, who can be contacted directly through their personal LINE accounts 24 hours a day for any requirements and urgencies.
Additionally, we support a conference system where patients can meet with our medical personnel to discuss various concerns such as symptoms, self-care, medication, treatment, as well as providing emotional support.
TN: How can someone get admitted into the Covid Home Care program?
WC: To join Covid Home Care, patients can sign up through our LINE account. We ask for all patients to provide a picture of the COVID test certificate and details regarding their current condition. Through our system, our back-office team and medical personnel will evaluate and classify the patient’s condition and follow up with a delivery of our medical box.
For patients over 60 years of age or with congenital diseases, we fully understand that it may be too difficult to conduct home isolation. We will prioritize these patients for a hospital bed and special care.
TN: Since much of the program relies on digital platforms, are there any plans for making digital upgrades?
WC: This project aims to provide all COVID-19 patients with a pathway to full recovery. We try our best to closely monitor and contact all our patients, with help from our admission team, volunteers, medical staff, and provisions from government ministries and other organizations.
However, the high number and sharp increase of COVID-19 cases had proved a major challenge for our team, as each patient’s data is individually evaluated. We aim to develop a system that helps to automate this process and allow faster admission to our care.
In collaboration with our IT department, we aim to develop a bot that helps organize and categorize the data of all our patients for our back-office staff, medical personnel, and volunteers. This will help the team to easily see to each patient’s specific needs, treatments, or urgent care.
TN: How can the program be expanded into other fields or areas?
WC: The team’s aim is to expand our reach to factory workers, Thai or foreign. This will become our fourth patient group. Through working with the Ministry of Industry, we can reach a greater number of people in a variety of industries and collect from each group essential data and the number of cases. This will help us devise strategies to cater to the needs of each group.
Our team works with local administrators and HR to develop methods for each group to deal with their COVID-19 situation. We continue to collect data to monitor the progress of each group and take safety measures to prevent any data breaches. From this, we can evaluate our performance and identify areas or factors for improvement.
We also aim to expand our reach by working with other volunteers to reach other patients outside of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area, such as the three southernmost provinces. Using our current system as a model, we plan to deploy our operations in those areas, raise awareness of our project, and help more patients sign up through our LINE account.
TN: How can we support Covid Home Care?
WC: Our team does not accept cash donations, as we understand the current situation is causing financial strain to our citizens. We received immense support from our friends who are ministers, permanent secretaries, and other leaders who donate generously to our cause.
However, one limitation that we are facing is staff proficiency in languages spoken by migrant workers, such as Burmese and Khmer. Currently, our volunteers are proficient in Thai and English. We do our best to communicate with all our patients in their preferred language to the best of our abilities.
Anyone who believes in our cause and possesses the skill and determination to help us expand our reach to COVID-19 patients are welcome to join the team as a volunteer.
TN: Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Pradit Ruengdit: I like to share this with our foreign friends. Do not hesitate to sign up with our program via the LINE account. We believe that everyone deserves to receive our services and access to our Covid Care Boxes. We will help you access Thai public healthcare.
This project started and was headed by the HEC. Our team puts our hearts into giving all COVID-19 patients hope and a pathway to recovery.
Dr. Khanat Kruthkul: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, regardless of race or nationality. We must realize that it is a national and global struggle. Only together can we overcome this problem. Our mission is to help everyone regardless of their differences. Every patient is like our family. Only through determination and collaboration can Thailand and the world go through this pandemic together.
Santiphap Phoemmongkhonsap: As someone from a younger generation and with a full-time job, I asked that we sacrifice a little of our time to become a volunteer. The job of fighting this pandemic is not only in the hands of medical personnel, but in all of us volunteers. Your 2-3 hours at night may be what makes the difference between life and death for a COVID-19 patient.
This is a critical time for collaboration and cooperation. We can no longer fight or blame anyone. If you think you can make a difference in society, this is the time to do it. This is the message I want to leave to everyone.