August 31, 2012 00:00 By PONGPHON SARNSAMAK THE NATION
Healthcare operators call for revision of regulations, complain of lack of support
Owners of healthcare businesses say the new “medical hub” policy is causing them problems and have urged the government to revise its regulations.
Many of them have complained of being abandoned by relevant state agencies when they faced business obstacles.
“The government gave us no support for our business. We have had to grow by ourselves and without the help of the government’s policy,” said Natcha Vejpongsa, the owner of Vejpongosot Co, a manufacturer of traditional herbal products.
Natcha is showcasing her company’s products at the Thailand Medical Hub Expo 2012, at Impact Exhibition Centre until Sunday.
Her concern followed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s visit to launch the expo yesterday and her announcement that the medical-hub policy would generate Bt800 billion in revenue for Thai business over the next five years.
According to the five-year policy plan, the government will lend support to medical services, traditional-medicine services, herbal products and spas. Moreover, it will promote beauty treatments, cosmetic surgery and infertility treatments for long-stay visitors.
Estimates put the number of medical tourists who have visited Thailand so far this year at more than 2.5 million, generating revenue of up to Bt121 million.
Most are from Japan, the US, Britain, the Middle East and Australia. The most popular treatments among medical tourists are orthopaedic, cardiac surgery, cosmetic surgery, dentistry, gastroenterology, and health checks.
But when it comes to traditional herbal products, Natcha says the government is failing to support the cultivation of the raw materials – medicinal plants – by local farmers. Medicinal plants that have become rare as farmers no longer grow them include kwao krua (Pueraria mirifica) and hanuman prasan kai (Schefflera leucantha), which are used to relieve coughs and asthma.
Moreover, Natcha wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to scrap regulations that have created difficulty for herbal-medicine producers in registering and describing the quality of their products.
Sasithorn Siriussawakul, a manager at the Thai Spa Association, said spa businesses now faced a shortage of trained staff, as therapists were being lured overseas by the promise of higher income.
She wants the government to focus on training more therapists and improving spa service standards to strengthen the industry’s reputation and help extend its reach internationally.
“We have found that many foreigners still associate our spas with sex services. This is a bad image for Thai spa therapy,” she said.
Chuthamas Premchaiporn, international business development manager at Pan Rajdhevee Group, complained that the pile of paperwork demanded by the FDA for importing medical equipment and beauty-therapy materials was hindering business.
“Instead of helping us compete with other countries, the government has created a burden for us,” she said.