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Groups call for new GPO board

Move seen as bid to oust Health chief by Rural Doctors and other networks

EIGHT HEALTH networks are calling for the dismissal of all members of the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation board, plus its chairman and managing director.

The move is widely seen as a pressure tactic against Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr Narong Sahametapat, who also sits on the GPO board. The Rural Doctors Society (RDS) and seven other networks have accused the current board of trying to undermine the GPO for the benefit of multinational drug firms.

"Narong should also be held responsible because he's a GPO board member. After he is removed from the board, he should never be entrusted with the mission of solving problems at the GPO again," Dr Vajira Botpiboon said, as he joined other representatives of the eight networks in submitting a petition to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) yesterday.

These networks have asked the junta to take action against the GPO board and top executives. Dr Pipat Yingseri is now the GPO chairman while Dr Suvaj Siasiriwattana is its managing director.

Siriporn Jitprasitsiri, who represents the Rural Pharmacists Club, complained that GPO management wanted to stop the production of many necessary medicines such as those prescribed for patients with diabetes, claiming that the GPO needed to cut its financial losses.

"The GPO has complained about the low margin of these necessary medicines. But the GPO is not supposed to seek huge profits. The GPO should be here to ensure that state hospitals can get medicines at a reasonable price," she said.

Apiwat Kwangkeaw from the Thai Network of People Living with Aids lamented that the GPO had failed to deliver on anti-retroviral drugs. "If the problem is not tackled now, patients will be hit by a drug shortage," he said.

The networks' petition said the board of the GPO, headed by Pipat, had caused damage to the organisation since it came to power in late 2012.

Dr Pradit Sintavanarong appointed this board while serving as public health minister. Pipat is a former secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration.

Many sources said that the RDS has locked horns with Pradit and Narong before over their pay-for-performance initiative for health workers.

The RDS, moreover, is close to Dr Witit Artavatkun, the former GPO managing director who was abruptly removed from the post via a GPO board resolution. His position was then taken by Suvaj.

According to the sources, the RDS has attempted several times to oust Narong from the helm of the Public Health Ministry. But Narong has so far retained the top job.

"The RDS may decide to deliver another blow now because the NCPO is in the process of reshuffling officials at various agencies," an informed source said.




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