CHIANG RAI – Thailand’s Health Minister Dr.Rajata Rajatanavin has reported that the Public Health Ministry is set to build health centers in border areas of three neighboring countries to reduce the flow of people crossing into Thailand to get medical treatment they cannot pay for.
Dr. Rajatanavin said on Wednesday Thailand was left with 360 million baht in noncollectable medical fees run up by immigrant patients who sought treatment in hospitals in border provinces last year.
These hospitals could not refuse to treat these patients on humanitarian grounds.
As a long-term solution to the problem the ministry has begun building health centers just across the border in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, opposite eight provinces — Tak, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi, Ubon Ratchathani, Nan, Sa Kaeo and Trat.
Each would cost about 500,000 baht, with funding to come from the Foreign Affairs Ministry and international organizations.
Mr Rajata said the ministry had assigned provincial public health offices in those provinces, which already have cooperation at local level, to provide technical assistance to the new health centers.
The pilot project was launched in the border region of Myawaddy in Myanmar, opposite Umphang district in Tak province. Umphang hospital has supported the building of a clinic on the Myanmar side of the border to provide basic treatment for sickness and injury, and a vaccination service.
He said the result was encouraging and the ministry is now seeking cooperation from the other two neighbours to help provide similar basic health services. This would reduce the number of patients crossing the border to get treatment in Thailand.
Mr Rajata said some Thai border hospitals were facing financial problems because they had to provide services to other nationals who could not afford to pay. In 2014, these unpaid bills totalled 360 million baht.
Common health problems at the border include pregnancy and child health issues, underweight children, HIV infections, tuberculosis and malaria.