January 31, 2014 00:00 By PONGPHON SARNSAMAK
THE NATIONAL Health Security Office (NHSO) is teaming up with an English university to improve the country's national healthcare fund by making it more effective and turning it into a model for neighbouring countries.
Under this collaboration, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will provide academic support such as research and expert knowledge in order to help the NHSO develop the services it provides to more than 48 million subscribers.
This tie-up came after the NHSO executive board instructed administrators to build a network with other developing countries, especially in Southeast Asia, in a bid to exchange know-how to improve healthcare services in each country, the office’s secretary-general, Dr Winai Sawasdivorn, said.
“We need to learn and team up with other countries to improve our healthcare programme so it is accepted by the international community,” he said.
The signing of this memorandum of understanding (MoU) brings the two organisations closer to further formalising their working relationship.
The first step under the MoU would be giving Thai health experts and scholars a chance to participate in training, short courses, distance learning and degree courses.
Second would be cooperation in research and studies on health system and joint publication of study results in international journals.
Third, joint contributions to the global health movement and universal health coverage on an international level. In addition, the two agencies will also exchange knowledge pertaining to universal health coverage and health security in areas such as financing, payment reform, commissioning organisations, decentralisation, quality of care and information management
Thailand set up the National Health Security Fund to provide universal healthcare coverage, known as the Bt30-scheme, for 48 million people in 2002.
The NHSO not only provides treatment for minor illnesses, but also covers people suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney problems, thalassemia, haemophilia, leukaemia, heart disease as well as HIV/Aids.
The NHSO also provides medical services to migrant workers who subscribe to it.
Previously, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was planning to develop a similar model in the form of an investment in the country’s economic and social development.
Prof Anne Mills, vice director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said Thailand’s biggest challenge is the need to support healthcare infrastructure and providers to manage good-quality care in response to the demand of the population. “It is important in the long term to pursue efforts to equalise health benefits across the population,” she said, pointing out that it was time the authorities addressed healthcare services for senior citizens as Thailand was fast becoming an ageing society.