Rescue workers being offered cash rewards
A large number of private hospitals are offering "cash rewards" to rescue workers in exchange for emergency patients - a practice that can lead to delayed treatment and deaths in a worst-case scenario.
"Instead of rushing the patient to the nearest hospital, some rescue workers opt for paying hospitals," Ruam Katanyu Foundation's representative Sakaorat Somsakunrungrueang said yesterday.
She was speaking at the National EMS Forum 2013. The forum on EMS, or emergency medical services, was co-hosted by the Emergency Medical Institute of Thailand and Chiang Mai Public Health Office.
Ruam Katanya Foundation has long operated rescue operations, with its volunteers rushing to accident sites to help victims.
"Most private hospitals now pay rescue workers for bringing in patients needing emergency treatment," Sakaorat said.
Dr Paiboon Suriyawongpaisarn, who teaches at the Mahidol University's Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, said the Victim Protection Fund offers Bt15,000 for each emergency patient admitted.
"Some hospitals want this money so badly that they are willing to offer cash rewards," he said.
Sakaorat, meanwhile, said she believes cash rewards weaken the public-minded spirit of volunteers.
"Many volunteers end up quarrelling over the money. This has become a chronic problem and we hope the government steps in to stop it," she said.
She added that though the Ruam Katanyu Foundation is trying to educate its volunteers and discourage them from accepting cash rewards, she said relevant authorities should also do something about it.
Another problem she raised was that some hospitals now used common vans - owned by private operators - as ambulances.
"This is illegal and relevant government agencies must take action quickly," she said.
Kitibodi Prawit, director of the Disaster Mitigation Directing Centre, said his agency's focus was now on developing human resources and engaging the public in the operations to help victims.
"State officials will at most reach just 20 per cent of the victims, so we need to find allies," he said.
Kitibodi said he hoped provincial administrative organisations would also play a leading role in the provision of efficient delivery of victims to medical facilities.
"Tambon administrative organisations should join in and recruit volunteers to help with the work," he suggested.
Dr Kittisak Kanasawas, mayor of the Muang Maha Sarakham Municipality, said providing emergency medical care was a very important issue.
"This issue, if handled well, will benefit both locals and tourists," he said.
However he admitted that local administrative bodies have limited resources and money.
Kittisak added that the 1669 EMS hotline was not known among people living in the provinces.
"Maybe the number is difficult to remember," he said.