Doctor urges migrant cover

A medical expert has urged the government to expand health care schemes to include migrant workers.

The aim would be to ease the financial burden on hospitals which have to provide treatment for them.

Phusit Prakongsai, director of the International Health Policy Programme Thailand, said that about 4 million migrant workers, both legal and illegal are living in Thailand.

It is estimated that this number will rise to 5 million after the Asean Economic Community begins in 2015.

The existing health care schemes only cover Thailand's 65 million citizens.

Dr Phusit said many hospitals are under financial strain, especially where there are high concentrations of migrant workers. He said these hospitals meet the cost of treating the workers because they are morally obliged to do so.

The doctor said Samut Sakhon Hospital overspends by 30 million baht a year to support both legal and illegal migrant workers in the fishing industry who cannot pay for treatment.

Umphang Hospital in Tak province, has reported a yearly deficit of 28-million-baht. There is also a shortage of medical staff in these hospitals when compared with the number of patients, both Thai and foreigners.

Last week, the National Health Personnel Committee of the National Health Commission agreed with Dr Phusit who is also secretary of a sub-committee implementing the World Health Organisation's Global Code of Practice on International Recruitment of Health Personnel. The commission is set to discuss Dr Phusit's proposal with the Public Health Ministry early next month. Dr Phusit said if the health care schemes were expanded, it would help public health authorities accurately allocate budgets.

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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat