Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health is taking a progressive leap forward with the announcement of plans to strengthen universal healthcare. Primarily geared towards improving accessibility and services to the underprivileged urban population, the idea was presented at Udon Thani’s academic conference. Addressing the need for such upgrades, Dr. Opas Kankawinpong, the ministry’s permanent secretary, emphasized that although the universal healthcare scheme has functioned smoothly for over 21 years, there is a pressing necessity for augmentation to cater to evolving lifestyles.
In the historical context, the ministry’s vulnerable or fragile groups mainly comprised individuals residing in remote areas due to their limited access to basic healthcare. Today’s economic contexts have extended this category to include less fortunate individuals dwelling in bustling urban landscapes such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Nakhon Ratchasima. The struggles faced by this group in procuring medical treatments under the existing health infrastructure is a fundamental issue that the Ministry is dedicated to rectifying.
As Dr. Opas stated, “Our key task under the forthcoming 30-baht healthcare scheme plus is to ensure the vulnerable groups have unhindered access to medical treatments. We plan to launch this initiative in accordance with the policies of the new minister.”
The challenge ahead encompasses battling various issues, including plugging the gap in the medical workforce caused by young doctors’ high attrition rate in state-owned hospitals. Overburdened by the patient load from the universal healthcare scheme that relies heavily on state-run hospitals, many healthcare professionals have opted to leave.
However, the reimagined 30-baht universal healthcare plus concept provides a solution by shifting the primary focus towards preventive healthcare, health promotion, and rehabilitation. The incorporation of advanced technologies such as telemedicine will play a vital role in managing the patient influx at state hospitals.
The ministry will also debut a policy allowing citizens to avail medical services in any hospital using their ID card. This initiative is in stark contrast to the existing regulation restricting service availing to the hospital of original registration. This move is a pivotal part of the government’s drive towards eradicating bottlenecks in universal healthcare, offering healthcare access to one and all.
Ensuring the feasibility of these transformations requires a diligent partnership with the National Health Security Office, tasked with overlooking the universal healthcare scheme’s budget. Upon successful dialogue and collaboration, the appropriate funding for hospitals across the nation will be determined as per the Bangkok Post’s reports.
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