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Higher penalty if doctors flee mandatory public service

national November 09, 2018 01:00

By THE NATION

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Medical council says other changes needed to keep state hospitals staffed.



THE PUBLIC HEALTH Ministry plans to significantly increase the penalty from Bt400,000 to Bt2.5 million for doctors defaulting on their required state service after they graduate from state-run medical schools. 

The plan will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval soon. 

Although the proposed penalty is much higher than the current fine, it is still half the amount initially proposed. In July, it was proposed that the penalty be increased to Bt5 million given the actual cost of educating doctors. 

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) had recently nudged the Public Health Ministry to review the Bt400,000 penalty, which was first introduced in 1973. The low penalty came to the OAG’s notice when it was studying the draft of a contract that the Public Health Ministry planned to have medical students sign. 

In response, the ministry set up a committee to determine the new rate. 

Led by the ministry’s then-permanent secretary Dr Jedsada Chokdamrongsu, the committee revised the penalty to Bt2.5 million, taking into account inflation and the actual cost of training medical students. 

The government requires graduates from state-run medical schools to work in government hospitals for at least three years. 

It is believed that if the penalties rise, the shortage of doctors in the public sector will ease.

Choose to leave

However, the Medical Council argued that a high penalty would not necessarily keep new doctors in the public service. They may choose to leave due to other factors, such as their families’ needs, financial circumstances, work conditions and their team members. 

According to a recent survey, just 3 per cent of fresh graduates from state-run medical schools say they prefer to pay the penalty in order to dodge the mandatory public service. 

Of the 1,726 new graduates last year, only 57 said they did not want to work in the public sector, while 1,467 or 85 per cent said they had every intention to put in their three years of public service. 

The remaining 202 said they were still undecided about their career path. 

Hence, the Medical Council said that offering the new doctors reasonable pay, a good working environment, a great team and legal protection will motivate them to stay in the public sector. 

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