AMMAR SIAMWALLA, a prominent member of the Thailand Development Research Institute, will head a panel to set the record straight about the universal healthcare scheme by looking into information supplied by both the Public Health Ministry and the National Health Security Office (NHSO).
The ministry and the Thailand Regional and General Hospital Society (Thaihos) has a big dispute with the NHSO over management of the scheme.
“The Ammar-headed panel will do the fact-finding stuff. It will check which side of the story is true,” a member of the NHSO disclosed yesterday on condition of anonymity.
The ministry and the NHSO have different sets of information, for example, on why some hospitals have run up huge debts under the universal healthcare scheme.
They have also argued over the NHSO’s allocation of funds to non-hospital units.
The source said Public Health Minister Rajata Rajatanavin had decided to set up the panel to set the record straight.
Ammar’s research usually covers Agriculture, Macroeconomics, Health Insurance and Thai Economic History.
He also has solid knowledge of Thailand’s different healthcare systems.
Thaihos president Dr Sutas Sriwilai said he welcomed the appointment of Ammar as head of the panel. So far, he has emphasised that teams should also be filled with neutral figures.
“Do not appoint a party in the conflict to the panel,” he said.
The minister, however, said he would appoint NHSO secretary-general Dr Winai Sawasdivorn and a deputy permanent secretary for Public Health to the panel.
Rajata said because decisions were made based on information, it was very important that parties concerned take information seriously.
“Now, we are trying to get complete and accurate information on the universal healthcare scheme,” he said.
Launched 12 years ago initially as the Bt30 scheme (the cost of medical visits), the universal healthcare scheme now covers 48 million people. Operated mainly through state hospitals under the Public Health Ministry’s supervision, the scheme offers free service for most kinds of treatment.
But many state hospitals have long complained of huge overloads and budget constraints from the scheme.
Recently, the ministry and Thaihos joined forces to pressure the NHSO to make changes – for example, by transferring subsidies to public health service area offices instead of directly to each hospital so that funds can be shared among medical facilities in the same zone.
The NHSO has showed no signs of bowing to this request.
First Published: The Nation, February 3, 2015