Abhisit refuses to drop draft bill

Medical groups considering further moves

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday refused to drop the Medical Malpractice Victim Protection Bill from the ongoing legislative process and set up a national-level committee to improve the draft law before submitting it to Parliament.

"We need to push ahead with the legislation. For some contentious points in this bill, all sides just need to talk and cooperate," Abhisit said.

He spoke after meeting representatives of the Network for People's Medical Protection and the Federation of Medical Workers, both of which want to see a national committee set up to improve the bill.

The establishment of such a committee would mean quite a long delay before the bill gets to Parliament.

Abhisit explained that the Public Health Ministry was now seeking to improve the bill and it would be better for all sides to co-operate with the ministry's ongoing efforts.

"If you disagree with any points in the bill, please raise the issue with the Public Health Ministry. It is best for all sides to work together to improve this draft law," he said.

Abhisit said the ministry had already dropped a two-week timeframe for improvements.

The network and federation had lamented that the two-week schedule meant the bill would be rushed into law, and that without careful deliberation it could do more harm than good.

The network's press chief Thapanawong Tang-uraiwan said it was regrettable that Abhisit had not agreed with the proposal of the network and the federation.

"We will have a discussion among our members within the next one or two days before considering further steps," he said.

He hinted at the possibility of gathering 10,000 signatures to propose a better version of the bill for Parliament.

"We plan to listen to the opinions of doctors and medical workers under all agencies first. We don't think the forum hosted by the Public Health Ministry will be open enough," Thapanawong said.

Meanwhile, the deputy secretary-general of the Medical Council, Ittiporn Khanacharoen, said the version of the bill now supported by the ministry would not really benefit patients.

"Every time patients visit a doctor, they will have to contribute some money to the no-fault compensation fund that is required by the bill," he said.

Ittiporn said it was difficult to fix the bill in the short-term, given that many of its sections were closely linked.

"In our opinion, if this bill becomes law, patient-doctor ties will worsen. Some patients will try to find fault with doctors because they want compensation. Doctors, meanwhile, will view their patients with distrust," Ittiporn said.

He also said that if the government wanted to extend protection against medical malpractice to people under the social-security fund's medical scheme and the medical scheme for civil servants and their families, it could simply amend Section 41 of the National Health Security Act.

Currently, this section offers quick compensation to victims of medical malpractice who receive health services under the universal healthcare scheme.

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