Four groups protest at Government House
- Published: 26/03/2013 at 04:35 PM
- Online news:
Members of the Rural Doctors Foundation, Health Professional Associates Thailand, the Government Pension Fund and the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority union, all protested outside Government House Tuesday - causing the inevitable traffic congestion.
Rural doctors rallied to express their discontent with Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong. The group has called for the minister and health permanent secretary Narong Sahamethapat to both step down from office.
Foundation president Kriangsak Watcharanukulkiat said doctors who work in rural areas have a sour relationship with Mr Pradit. The minister's decision to cut rural hardship allowances, and instead apply a pay for performance system (P4P) next month, was the final straw.
The group's members burnt a coffin bearing the minister's name and picture during their protest.
Members of the Rural Doctor Foundation call on Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong to step down following his decision to cut their hardship allowances. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Mr Pradit said on Tuesday that the cabinet had approved in principle the change for hardship allowances to be based on the performance (P4P) system, as proposed by the National Health Security Office, with a three billion baht budget.
This would improve efficiency and help reduce problems regarding the income gap between rural and urban doctors and nurses, he said.
The ministry would meet with rural doctors' representatives on Friday. Kittiratt Na Ranong, deputy prime minister and finance minister, would explain the changes to them The government was not cancelling the hardship allowance system, just adjusting it to match the workload.
He said the change was a consensus of a majority of people in the medical profession, who agreed that some districts, for example Bang Yai and Bang Bua Thong in Nonthaburi, were no longer rural areas which deserved that hardship allowance, so the system should be adjusted.
Mr Pradit asked rural doctors' representatives to attend the meeting, so a conclusion could be tabled for approval at a mobile cabinet meeting on Sunday and become effective on Monday.
Members of the group Individuals of Health Professional Associates Thailand, also gathered and urged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to employ public health academics already working part-time in 21 fields as government officials.
PM's deputy secretary Suporn Uttawong went to talk with the group's representatives and they agreed a meeting will be arranged on April 22 so that they can discuss their problems with representatives from the Ministry of Public Health.
The protesters were satisfied with the arrangement and called off their protest.
Members of the Government Pension Fund (GPF), led by Vit Akkarasantikul, also rallied outside Government House. They demanded the government pension fund scheme should either be amended or axed.
Members of Government Pension Fund urged the government to consider their demands. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
They want four modifications to the 1997 Government Pension Fund Act.
The changes demanded are: that GPF members who retire at the mandatory retirement age should get a higher pension; GPF members should be allowed to resign; better pensions for families of dead GPF members; and all changes should apply to members who have already retired.
Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt told the protesters that all details have to be examined before any action can be taken. He said he would include their points of view for discussion at a committee meeting on Thursday, which he will chair.
The members were content with Mr Kittiratt's statement and called off their protest.
The union of workers at the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority, the city bus fleet operator, also gathered to encourage the government to implement the plan to purchase 3,183 new public buses fuelled by natural gas to replace the run-down bus fleet that has been in use for over 20 years.
The union complained that the government is not addressing the problem seriously. It said that improving the public bus system is important and just as urgent as the planned 2.2 trillion baht investment in infrastructure projects.
During the protest in the morning, there was heavy traffic congestion on roads around Government House. The police advised motorists to avoid Phitsanulok Road and closed Rama 5 Road.
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- Writer: Online Reporters
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