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Dr Kongkiat Kespechara explains his Phuket philosophy to Phuketwan

Phuketwan Phuket Person of the Year 2009

Monday, January 11, 2010
PHUKETWAN'S Phuket Person of the Year 2009 is Kongkiat Kespechara. As with previous winners, his name may not be well known to all Phuket residents and visitors, but it certainly deserves to be.

Dr Kongkiat, Director of the Bangkok Hospital Phuket, not only runs one of the island's best hospitals. He is also attempting to give Phuket a second key industry alongside tourism, as well as playing a vital role in the development of medical care throughout Thailand.

''Don't put me on the front page,'' Dr Kongkiat said when we talked. Not for the first time, we've ignored the doctor's advice.

Other not so modest contenders would have enjoyed a brief encounter in the limelight, most notably Winai ''JJ'' Neiman, who played a key role this year in bringing Phuket's jet-ski extortionists to world prominence.

After all, golfer Tiger Woods set the tone for 2009 and was undoubtedly International Man of the Year. Think about those rare times when Tiger's shots headed towards the crowd and people yelled the warning, ''Fore!'' What they should really have been yelling was a different warning: ''Fornicator!''

Fallen heroes and anti-heroes are not what Phuket needs, we decided. Much better to celebrate, as we have done in the past, the achievements of people who deserve greater recognition and who represent a better Phuket, rather than a possibly reformed one.

Dr Kongkiat's ideas including changing the demographics of Phuket by attracting younger, highly skilled expats to the island's growing software industry, rather than retirees.

Not that he has anything against retirees: many of them make use of the hospitals' highly-regarded services, even if some of them complain long and hard about the cost.

What Dr Kongkiat disapproves of is the wall-builders. He tells of going with a group from the hospital to work on a decrepit school at Cape Panwa, on Phuket's east coast.

Alongside the school was a house with a huge wall. Dr Kongkiat figured the owner would have been better off building a house with a wall at half the cost, and giving the rest to the neighborhood school.

''I try to think about the future, a place where kids can grow up,'' he said. ''You have to earn a lot of money to build a huge wall. But we need to educate our children more.''

Phuket's 25 million baht Software Park, which opened in Chao Fa Road West in 2009, is a beginning to his idea to create a second important industry for Phuket.

There are plans for a billion-baht plus expansion.

His involvement in a nationwide program has seen the development of software that gives Thailand's rural clinics a simple but effective way of recording cases on basic computers.

''These clinics do not have money, and if they do have money, nobody wants to work there,'' he said.

Staff numbers are limited so perhaps a porter will be trained how to input data. The 14 clinics involved in the first successful trial will grow to 700 eventually, he hopes.

What the software means is that, for example, if three elderly ladies come in over a short period with the same complaint, the medical staff can now more easily establish that there's a pattern and trace the cause speedily.

To us, the modest medico's prescription for a better Phuket and more efficient medical service throughout Thailand deserves recognition. The fact that he's doing all this, along with running one of the island's largest hospitals, is a rare achievement.

Dr Kongkiat, 43, moved to Phuket 15 years ago, loves the place and has started a family. His wife is a doctor at Mission Hospital. He has no time beyond work and family for other activities, but he is climbing the stairs now to stay healthy.

And perhaps ''JJ's'' turn will come next time.
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Phuketwan Person of the Year 2008 Award

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Comments

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Sound choice. As I do not know him, I very well know the services of Bangkok Hospital, be it ER, the children docs, the dentists. And it made one of the differences, why we settled every last years some month in Phuket.

Funny though, that I always received a friendly and warm attitude by the doctors, but it looked when they speak Thai, they talk and behave different, more like young girls figure skating instructors from Russia. There you see: Sometimes it has its rewards being the farang.

Phuket can be happy for people like Mr. Kongkiat Kespechara. Hard and successful working put thinking also outside their box paired with high personal integrity. Congratulations for the choice and to the winner.

Posted by Lena on January 11, 2010 15:08

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Well done and congratulations Mor /Dr Kongkiat Kespechara.

Posted by Graham on January 12, 2010 00:42

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"Alongside the school was a house with a huge wall."

In the past, local officials have advised foreigners living on Panwa to build walls, otherwise some local neighbors might feel invited to help themselves to the use of your facilities.

A cultural issue out there, I suppose.

Posted by Treelover on January 12, 2010 07:28


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