Friday, 13 December 2019

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Increased budget for Thai border hospitals

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - The Thai government has approved an increased budget for 172 public border hospitals to provide medical services for nearly 500,000 stateless people in the country.

Junrin Laksanavisit, Thailand’s Public Health Minister said on Friday that a recent cabinet decision granted about 472 million baht [14.3 million USD] for border hospitals to provide medical services to stateless people. The budget will come into force from April 1, 2010.

“We set up a new committee to follow up operative details, which are representatives of border hospitals, patients and related organizations. The ministry has ordered local border hospitals to provide services to those people,” he said, according to a report of the Public Health Ministry of Thailand on Friday.

The action follows a request in early February from a network of doctors, who work in state hospitals near the Thai-Burma border that it faces severe debt incurred by providing free medical services, both to Thai nationals who do not have identification cards and to persons having no nationality.

The doctors stated that hospitals operating in five districts of Tak now have debts as high as Bt 111.5 million, as half of their patients have no identification cards and about 33 per cent of hospital bed occupancy are by patients having no registered nationality.

In February, Dr Worawit Tantiwattanasap, Director of Umphang Hospital in Tak revealed that most patients without national identification papers still receive free medical services, and the hospitals also must pay other expenses such as meals and transportation fees for them. Hospitals also treat patients with deadly diseases, to prevent the diseases spreading to other areas if no preventive measures are taken, according to Thai News Agency Website.

He added that hospitals can no longer shoulder the expenditure and need government help.

After the resolution released on Tuesday, the border doctors network, Ethnics in Thailand Network and some of the migrant labour rights activists have welcomed the cabinet decision and urged the government to expedite the process.     

Dr Kanoknart Pisuthakul, Mae Sot Hospital Director said that the group thanks the Public Health Minister, who played a significant role to push the policy that granted medical access to those ethnic members and people with no citizenship living along the border.

Ongkham, a Shan ethnic living in Chiang Mai province told Mizzima that this policy could help stateless ethnic people and migrants who face problems in accessing medical services.

“Earlier, even though several hospitals did not deny treating us some officials said that the hospital doesn’t have money to provide enough drugs. Many of us ethnic people and migrants from Burma are too poor to go to private hospitals or clinics,” he said.


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