Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong has rejected health industry concerns that the new performance-based payment (P4P) system will lead to pay cuts for doctors.
Speaking during yesterday's PM Yingluck Meets the People television programme, Dr Pradit said that checks will be put be in place to prevent the P4P scheme from significantly reducing doctors' hardship allowances, particularly for those in rural areas.
The scheme, which was approved by the cabinet on March 31, has enraged rural doctors, who are concerned about cuts to their allowances.
But the cabinet resolved that if doctors' incomes decrease significantly as a result of the scheme's introduction, the ministry will address the matter urgently, Dr Pradit said.
Critics are also worried that the scheme will lead to doctors leaving rural state hospitals and moving to better paid private facilities.
Dr Pradit, however, brushed aside those concerns, saying the scheme will shore up and possibly increase doctors' incomes for those who work harder.
"The scheme will not trigger a brain drain among medical personnel from public to private healthcare," he said.
"Rural doctors must be supported with their existing allowances, plus performance-based payments, which will actually boost their income."
Following threats that rural doctors plan to stage a nationwide strike on Tuesday, the minister said he will clarify the matter with concerned parties.
The P4P system, which was signed on Friday by ministry permanent-secretary Narong Sahametapat, was enacted retrospectively from Tuesday.
Kriangsak Watcharanukulkiat, president of the Rural Doctors Society, said on Friday that 151 doctors have already resigned from community hospitals as sa result of the changes.
Six of them were in the past week, including three from Bang Bua Thong district hospitals in Nonthaburi who cited the P4P scheme as the reason for their departure, Dr Kriangsak said.
He said he fears the figure will snowball as the workload for remaining doctors increases.
The doctors society also said the policy is likely to encourage conflict among medical staff as they compete with each other for higher performance scores and better pay grades.
Suphan Srithamma, public health deputy permanent secretary, said yesterday that a committee will be set up in each hospital to assess doctors' individual performance.
Dr Suphan believes the committees will actually help to encourage better staff performance.
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- Writer: Paritta Wangkiat