The cabinet yesterday approved a 3.27-billion-baht budget for the purchase of durable medical equipment under the World Bank's Development Policy Loan programme.
Permanent secretary for public health Narong Sahametha confirmed the budget approval.
He said the money will be spent on 3,390 items of medical equipment, which will include anaesthetic machines, defibrillators, orthopaedic mattresses and stomach scopes.
The equipment will be provided to over 1,000 state hospitals and public health service centres around Thailand.
Dr Narong said the Public Health Ministry had initially asked the Democrat-led cabinet for 3.42 billion baht for the purchase of durable medical equipment when Jurin Laksanavisit was acting public health minister in 2011.
But the cabinet at the time asked the ministry to reduce the proposed budget. The ministry was able to cut the budget to 3.27 billion baht after successful negotiations with medical equipment providers, Dr Narong said.
The ministry proposed the revised budget again to the cabinet at that time, which chose to let the next government, eventually formed by the current Pheu Thai-led coalition, decide on the matter.
Last July, about 200 people from the Rural Doctors Society and the Patient Network converged on the ministry to demand the release of the budget.
The groups criticised former minister Witthaya Buranasiri, blaming him for slowing down the process. They also handed in a complaint letter to the National Anti-Corruption Commission as they suspected that corruption was hindering the money's timely release.
However, Rural Doctors Society president Kriangsak Watcharanukulkiat told the Bangkok Post yesterday that he was satisfied that the money was finally going to be released. He expects it will take several months from now to complete the process.
Before this budget was approved the government had not invested in new medical equipment for a decade, Dr Kriangsak said.
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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat