New NHSO places spark meddling fear

The National Health Security Office (NHSO) board's decision to add two more deputy secretary-general positions has upset health activists, who fear political interference.

The board's approval of the new positions at its meeting yesterday prompted some activists who are also board members to walk out in protest.

They fear the move would allow politicians to meddle in the board's operations and budget.

NHSO secretary-general Winai Sawasdivorn confirmed the board had resolved to appoint two more deputy secretary-generals to support the NHSO's work.

Created in 2002, the NHSO oversees the universal health care programme, which provides coverage for 47 million people. The agency has more than 800 staff with a budget of 100 billion baht a year. The NHSO currently has three deputy secretary-generals.

Dr Winai said the new deputies would take responsibility for managing the agency's clearing house of claims and preparing for changes under the Asean Economic Community in 2015.

"There will be no political interference in the board," he said, adding the selection procedure for the two deputies would be carried out within a month.

NHSO board members who represent non-governmental organisations on health said the appointments were unnecessary and could pave the way for political interference.

"We are not against the recruitments," said Boonyuen Siritham, a health activist and NHSO board member.

"But we don't want the new deputies to come from the political sector as that will limit the NHSO's freedom in making decisions."

Ms Boonyuen and four other board members walked out of the meeting in protest.

At its previous meeting on Nov 5, the board decided not to add more positions to the organisation's structure, she said. It was odd that the board could change its mind so quickly, and activists were worried it was designed to usher in political appointments.

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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat