Doctors criticise regressive healthcare reforms

The Rural Doctors’ Association (RDA) has criticised the junta’s plans to amend the National Health Security Act, arguing it has overlooked the interests of the people.
 
On 12 June 2017, the RDA released a statement lambasting the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) for turning its back on past commitments to universal health.
 
The junta’s proposed revisions to the National Health Security Act threaten to abolish Thailand’s universal healthcare, also known as the "Gold Card" medical scheme. The MOPH maintains the reforms will increase the efficiency of the country’s health system. 
 
The RDA’s statement advises the MOPH to rethink the amendments since they contradict the promises to enhance universal healthcare given by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha at the United Nations General Assembly on 28 September 2015.    
 
“While the Public Health Minister has proudly presented Thailand’s universal healthcare scheme to the international community and promised to improve it, in reality the proposed amendments do the complete opposite. ... The result is national distrust of the government,” the RDA said.    
 
The RDA statement also points out that the amendments are being rushed through with little genuine public participation.
 
On 6 June 2017, the People's Health Systems Movement (PHSM) gathered in front of the United Nations office in Bangkok to call on the MOPH to withdraw its plans, claiming the changes will deprive people of their right to health. 
 
But the day after, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Minister for Public Health, insisted on pressing on with the amendments. Only then did he promise public hearings to be held in four regions to clarify any questions and collect people’s opinions — a gesture viewed by the RDA as too little too late. 
 
Public hearings in Chiang Mai and Songkhla proved unsuccessful after participants walked out from both forums, complaining that the Ministry was treating the hearing as if it was a mere ritual, rather than a platform for people to participate in the decision-making process. 
 
“As representatives of the northern region, we have reached the consensus that the amendments must be terminated. All sectors must be allowed to participate equally to create legal legitimacy, and to dispel rumours that the reforms are a conflict of interest,” said Supaporn Thinwattanakul, a participant who walked out of the Chiang Mai hearing.
 
 
Participants talk to the media after walking out from a public hearing in the southern province of Songkhla (Photo from Thai Post