BANGKOK – The Ministry of Public Health is seeking an appropriate form of health insurance for foreigners, especially those from ASEAN countries, seeking medical care in Thailand when ASEAN becomes a single community.
Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong stated that, following the realization of the ASEAN Community in 2015, more people from countries sharing borders with Thailand would seek medical treatment here.
In order to cope with the situation, he said, Thailand needs to improve its medical services and propose a suitable health insurance scheme as an alternative for medical charges. The health insurance scheme will be carried out on a humanitarian basis, while it must not create financial burdens for various hospitals.
The Public Health Minister said that the establishment of the ASEAN Community would facilitate travel within the region by ASEAN citizens. Concerning public health, he said, the free movement of people in the region is likely to lead to two major problems in Thailand. The first problem is that certain diseases that have been brought under control may reemerge. These diseases include diphtheria, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, and AIDS. Thailand needs to prepare personnel to meet the expected growing demand for medical care. At the same time, it needs to step up border cooperation with neighboring countries for disease control.
The second problem is that the quality of certain food, chemicals, and cosmetics that are brought into the country may not be up to standard. In order to prevent this problem, a quality control center should be established to ensure food and chemical standards.
In preparation for the ASEAN Community, he said, Thailand will create confidence with regard to its strengths in terms of experienced health personnel and modern facilities. Thai insurance companies will be urged to sell health insurance in neighboring countries, such as Laos and Cambodia. Medical tourism coverage may be offered to foreign visitors, as well.
Meanwhile, the Director of the International Health Policy Program Office, Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Phusit Prakongsai, has expressed concern about the potential drain brain problem among Thai medical personnel following the realization of the ASEAN Community. He said that the development of Thailand as a medical hub and the international healthcare program should not affect the availability of good, affordable health care for Thai patients.
The Director of Ramathibodi School of Nursing, Assistant Professor Jariya Witayasuporn, said that Thailand still faces a shortage of nurses. Various medical schools are accelerating the creation of nurses. The ratio of nursing staff to patients in Thailand is 1:600. With more nurses joining hospitals and clinics, it is expected that the ratio of nursing staff to patients will be 1:500 in the future.
Nurses are among members of nine professions who will be able to move and work freely among ASEAN nations when 2015 arrives.