TO HELP boost access to healthcare for vulnerable people, National Health Security Office (NHSO) chief Sakchai Kanchanawattana has proposed that tribes be given a “gold card”, which allows them to get healthcare service at any state facility.
Sakchai said he will submit his plan to the NHSO board for approval.
The plan is aimed at the Maniq or the “Sakai” tribe, one of the world’s last hunter-gatherer societies, who have lived for thousands of years in the forested areas of the Banthat Mountain Range in Yala, Narathiwat, Phatthalung, Trang and Satun provinces. The population of Thailand’s only Negrito ethnic group now stands at 500 people. Most cannot speak Thai or know only a few words.
Sakchai recently visited the Maniq communities in Songkhla and Satun to follow up on the work done so far to improve the minority group’s access to NHSO services. He said 312 Maniq people had obtained national ID cards and were registered with the NHSO healthcare scheme as of August 21.
The NHSO wants to implement the 4th National Health Security Strategy (2017-2021), which includes ensuring effective health coverage for vulnerable groups, such as the Maniq.
Normally, tribal people treat themselves using ancestral wisdom and familiar herbs, Sakchai said. However, the herbs they use are becoming tougher to find due to deforestation, resulting in tribes having to ask their acquaintances from the outside world to take the seriously ill to a hospital.
Though hospitals end up providing free services, as tribal people do not have money, they are unable to seek reimbursement from NHSO.
This has led to the Interior Ministry’s Provincial Administration Department and the NHSO Region 12 Office in Songkhla to jointly help the Maniq people to get Thai nationality, so they can have access to the universal healthcare system.
Sakchai said that using the normal healthcare system will be difficult, because the Maniq people are nomadic and move to follow the seasonal food chain.
This is why, he said, they should be allowed healthcare at any state health facility without requiring patient referral.
This proposal has already been approved by the NHSO Region 12 Office and will soon be submitted for the NHSO board’s consideration.