Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has shot down the Public Health Ministry's proposal to set up a new state body to screen public health policies before implementation.
Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong confirmed his proposal was rejected by the prime minister on Friday. Ms Yingluck argued it would duplicate the job of cabinet and other independent health agencies.
Under Dr Pradit's proposal, the new state body _ to be called the National Health Authority (NHA) _ would be chaired by the prime minister and have the defence, interior, finance, social development and human security, labour and education ministers as members.
The public health minister would serve as its secretary.
The NHA would screen health policies proposed by various agencies before sending them to the cabinet for approval.
Independent health agencies and non-government organisations criticised the plan as an effort to centralise power and to curtail the public's say on national health affairs.
Independent organisations such as the National Health Commission (NHC), National Health Security Office (NHSO), Thai Health Promotion Foundation (THPF) and Health Research Institute influence national health policy.
Each of these organisations operates under a separate law that provides the freedom to involve academics and the public in drafting health policies.
These organisations also obtain funding from the government. The THPF alone receives more than 2 billion baht a year.
Dr Pradit's critics say they are concerned public health policies may no longer reflect the public need if they have to go through the NHA.
The prime minister had suggested the ministry set up a committee to give advice on national health affairs, he said.
Dr Pradit said he and his team would draft a new proposal for Ms Yingluck.
Dr Wichai Chokevivat, a staunch opponent of the proposal, said he is pleased it was rejected. A member of the NHC, NHSO and THPF boards, he said policies drawn up by independent organisations are based on research and undergo public hearings as stipulated by the law.
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- Writer: Paritta Wangkiat