The Nation

BOI, NHC aim to cut ill effects of medical hub scheme

The National Health Commission is teaming up with the Board of Investment to chalk out a new strategy for the healthcare industry that emphasises urban primary care and auns at reducing some of the negative side effects of the government's medical-hub policy.

"This will be the new image of the BoI, which does not support only investment that generates profits for the private sector but also investment that can reduce the social gap," Dr Amphon Jindawattana, secretary-general of the NHC, said yesterday. "This is small but beautiful," he said.Private hospitals with 30 beds are expected to get a tax exemption as support from the government under this review of health services. The NHC and BOI are to appoint a panel to set a direction for the healthcare industry that does not weaken the healthcare system and violate the health charter, which asks state agencies not to issue any policy that supports medical services for commercial gain. Instead of encouraging big private hospitals to go ahead and profit from the medical-hub policy, which promotes Thailand as an international healthcare destination, the government should support small medical businesses, Amphon said. The focus should be on primary care centres and general practitioners treating patients living in urban areas and registered with the National Health Security Office or Social Security Office. Even though the medical-hub policy would generate income for the country from tourism, enhance medical knowledge and develop medical technology, Thailand still has the problem of inequity in healthcare between urban and rural areas, particularly the shortage of personnel. "The promotion of the medical-hub policy is the accelerator causing the brain drain of doctors, super-specialists and other medical workers to private hospitals," Amphon said. Hirunya Suchinai, senior executive investment adviser to the BoI, said the board members would further discuss appropriate incentives for the healthcare industry. The BoI has suspended its plan to support medical businesses under the medical-hub policy and will revise its announcement granting a tax exemption to private hospitals with 30 beds. The Health Service Support Department on Monday conducted a public hearing on its five-year plan to implement the second phase of the medical-hub policy. However, Amphon said he would send an official letter to the department asking it to withdraw the plan, as it focused on medical services and would undermine the healthcare system. Dr Boonrueng Trairueng-worawat, deputy director-general of the department, has said the second phase would not concentrate on medical services alone because the public healthcare system suffered during the first phase from 2004-07. After the medical-hub policy was adopted in 2004, doctors from state hospitals and medical schools have taken up part-time jobs at private institutions, he said. Some doctors, especially highly skilled ones, have quit state hospitals for private institutions to make more money. The BoI and NHC will hold the first meeting of the panel on Monday.


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