Virus efforts a shambles
The campaign by a group called "Mor Mai Thon", or Doctors Won't Tolerate This, to drive public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul out of office is gaining momentum and it's one that the government should take seriously.
The need to heed public opinion is especially vital for Mr Anutin, whose performance during the Covid-19 crisis has been called into question.
The petition on Change.org was launched last Sunday. It received more than 100,000 signatures in support in a single day. As of yesterday, more than 200,000 people had signed it.
Finding himself under pressure, Mr Anutin at first tried to downplay the matter.
Dismissing the public backlash, Mr Anutin insisted he has done his very best. He also said that medical workers are still willing to work with him, and that he will leave the job of his own accord if he ever finds the task overwhelming.
Incidentally, a few hospitals and healthcare centres happened to post messages in his support on the same day, with similar captions and photos, and the same hashtags of #realgoldnotafraidoffire and #SaveAnutin.
The casual dismissal and orchestrated cheer-leading did nothing to slow down the campaign.
Mr Anutin then tried to shift the blame. In a post on his Facebook page, the public health minister said he was only following orders and policies set out by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
In response to Mr Anutin ignoring its demand for his resignation, the Mor Mai Thon group announced that it was ready to step up its campaign.
The conflict has inevitably been politicised as it escalated. This should not happen. What is clear is the campaign for Mr Anutin's resignation originated and has received massive support because many people believe the public health minister has failed in his mission to provide the best possible care to the public.
The group clearly specified that Mr Anutin failed in every step from coming up with appropriate policies, managing healthcare resources, and procuring vaccines to cultivating confidence among front-line medical staff.
The state of disarray in the healthcare system is their evidence. It is understandable that the public health services would be stretched beyond limit as new infections and the death toll keeps on rising. It is unacceptable, however, when the authorities say one thing, painting an optimistic picture that everything is under control and there are enough facilities and equipment for everyone.
The reality is indeed horrendous. An increasing number of people are reported to have died at home while waiting to reach the government's so-called hotline services or to be admitted for treatment.
That the chaos occurred after the country had been through two Covid-19 waves raises the question of the authorities' preparedness. Mr Anutin, as head of the Public Health Ministry, can't avoid responsibility.
What happened to the 45-billion-baht budget earmarked to fight the pandemic? Why has only 3% to 4% been reimbursed for the handling of this emergency situation and procurement of medical equipment while nothing at all has been used to prepare medical facilities to cope with the outbreak?
The message that the campaign is sending to Mr Anutin, and the government, is clear. The current management of the Covid-19 crisis is not up to standard, and it is a matter of life and death that should never been brushed aside casually or politicised.
Unless the public health minister and the government behind him are able to upgrade their response, they should make way for others to fulfil the mission.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
Email : email@example.com