Who We Are
The Burma Children Medical Fund (BCMF) was established in response to the increasing number of patients on the Thai-Burma border who required surgery that was not available at local clinics or hospitals.
The Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) was founded by Dr. Cynthia Maung following Burma’s suppression of the pro-democracy movement in 1988. Dr. Maung was among many Burmese who fled across the border into Thailand where she established a makeshift medical clinic in Mae Sot to treat the injuries sustained by Burmese refugees. In that year the clinic treated some 2000 individuals. While the clinic has grown since then and now offers a wide range of health care services, for patients that require surgery or more complex medical procedures, options are limited. Often, the only chance these patients have to undergo surgery is to be referred to Chiang Mai Hospital or another major hospital.
The Burma Children Medical Fund (BCMF) was founded in 2006. Before BCMF was established, people who needed surgery could only have their symptoms treated. Without the necessary surgery their lives were either severely incapacitated or they died prematurely. BCMF works to give these patients a chance to a healthy life by funding their medical treatment and providing a range of support services before, during, and after treatment.
Every Thursday, with the cooperation of the Thai authorities, a van leaves Mae Tao Clinic with a group of patients and their caregivers and heads for Chiang Mai, 300 miles away. Once in Chiang Mai, the patients are admitted to Chiang Mai hospital with costs paid by BCMF. Their caregivers stay in a ‘safe house’, essentially a hostel from which they can go to visit and support their child. The high level of trust between local Thai authorities and BCMF is based on scrupulous record keeping and a strong spirit of cooperation, which ensures the safe transport of patients from Mae Sot to Chiang Mai.
The recent political changes in Burma have meant very little in the lives of ordinary Burmese, particularly in relation to health care. Even with the latest round of reforms in Burma, the regime’s current budget reflects the fact that, despite modest increases, health care spending remains low. In 2013, 3.9% of the country’s total budget was dedicated to health care spending.
As a result, very little has changed on the ground for BCMF as we continue to see patients coming in large numbers seeking treatment due to the state of the Burmese health system. There are few Burmese hospitals that are able to provide treatment for complex cases, and at those facilities that do offer care, treatment continues to be cost-prohibitive for many patients.