Patients get right to 72 hours of critical care
User charges banned, cases to be screened
Hospitals which fail to follow new regulations on emergency admissions for people who require emergency care within 72 hours will be punished, says Visit Tangnaphakorn, director-general of the Department of Health Service Support (DHSS).
The new public health service law on Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) was implemented on Saturday.
Response within the first 72 hours after a critical situation is crucial, Dr Visit said.
He said private hospitals which refuse to provide intensive treatment to people in a critical condition, or which charge them during emergency care are violating the Sanatorium Act which carries a maximum jail term of two years and a fine of up to 40,000 baht or both.
Dr Visit has ordered DHSS officials to send details about new healthcare regulations on emergency admission and guidelines for emergency care to 347 health care centres, and state and private hospitals nationwide.
He urged hospitals and health personnel to study the information and follow the follow the guidelines.
"We need to get the hospitals and health personnel on the same page and stick to the guidelines," Dr Visit said.
On March 28, the cabinet approved the regulations for emergency admissions in principle which were submitted by Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn.
After approval was granted, three public health ministerial regulations were issued under the Sanatorium Act.
The regulations comprise a screening process to identify patients; guidelines for emergency care; and guidelines to charge a fee during emergency care, Dr Visit said.
Under the regulations, patients who are admitted to a hospital will receive emergency care for 72 hours, free of charge. After 72 hours of care, a patient who needs further treatment will have to be referred to a hospital where he or she has registered.
A patient who prefers receiving ongoing treatment at a hospital that provides them with emergency care must pay for the remaining treatment costs, he said.
Expenses incurred during emergency care will be deducted from the national health security fund and social security fund with which they have registered with, he added.
DHSS deputy-director Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn urged hospitals to set up a team of experts and health personnel to screen people who may be in critical condition and need emergency care.
He suggested the team consult the UCEP Coordination Centre to help them decide if a patient needs emergency care.
Earlier, government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the regulations are aimed at ensuring all people have equal access to health care and help narrow the gap between the rich and the poor.
He said six groups of people who are defined as requiring emergency admission include those who are temporarily unconscious, unresponsive and not breathing; and those who have a pounding heart and shortness of breath.
Other illnesses that need medical attention include drowsiness; excessive sweat associated with seizures; sudden chest pain; weakness in arms and legs and difficulty speaking; seizures; and other symptoms which would affect the functions of the respiratory system, blood circulatory system and brain and nerve system, he said.
According to the National Institute of Emergency Medicine, there were about 12 million emergency patients last year. Of them, about four million were critically ill patients and the number was expected to increase. Between 2013 and 2015, about 1.3 million patients had access to emergency medical care while only 400,000 critically ill patients did.
The NIEM also stressed the need to improve and expand emergency care services to reach a wider public.