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Thailand’s State Hospitals Facing Medical Staff Shortages Over New Policy

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BANGKOK – The Medical Council of Thailand has set up a working group to study the impact of a government move to stop giving official positions to all medical graduates working at state hospitals.

“We are worried about the effect of this policy and we believe its impact must be scrutinized thoroughly,” Dr Ittaporn Kanacharoen, secretary-general of the Medical Council of Thailand, told media early this week at a press briefing.

The council, an authoritative professional group, is expected to hold a meeting with the Ministry of Public Health next month to discuss the issue.

This comes in response to a proposal by the State Resources and Policy Specification Committee under the Office of the Civil Service Commission (OCSC) on April 19.

In a bid to downsize official staff headcounts, the OCSC recently unveiled it would not open more placements to new graduates from medicine or dentistry faculties after 2021.

In Thailand, medical graduates from state universities are obliged to work at state hospitals for three to eight years as a form of pay back for their heavily subsidized tuition fees.

In practice, the graduates become state officials working for the Health Ministry.

They earn 500,000 baht a year on average including state welfare benefits, a pension and healthcare extended to family members, including their parents.

Dr Pradit Chaiyabud, chairman of the Federation of General Hospitals in Thailand, warned the policy would eventually result in a severe shortage of medical doctors at state hospitals.

He said doctors are already overwhelmed, a situation made worse by Thailand’s greying society and a rise in patients with non-communicable diseases.

The ministry claims there is one doctor for every 1,843 patients at state-run hospitals in Thailand.

The World Health Organization’s standard is 1:1,200.

Dr Pradit asked if the policy would derail the government’s plan to spend 93 billion baht to recruit 20,000 more medical students to work in the public healthcare sector over the next decade.

“Why spend so much taxpayers’ money if these doctors won’t serve at state hospitals?” he asked.

By Apinya Wipatayotin
The Bangkok Post