Tourist-heavy Koh Tao gets new hospital
Koh Tao welcomed its first official hospital Saturday after a medical unit on the island famous for its marine life was upgraded to support about half a million tourists a year.
The Ministry of Public Health said it spent 39 million baht to upgrade the facility, which has been renamed Koh Tao Hospital. It has 10 beds and is located on a two-rai plot of land (3,200 sq m) on the island in Phangan district of Surat Thani.
The ministry said there are over 2,000 Thai residents on the island, which draws about 500,000 tourists every year. The medical unit said it received over 6,000 patients a year, 80% of whom were foreign tourists.
In the past, seriously injured patients of those seeking emergency aid had to be referred to Surat Thani Hospital on the mainland. Transferring there by boat entailed a journey of one to three hours, depending on the boat and season. There were about 40 transfers each month between last October and January, officials said.
Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said the island generates several billion baht in revenue.
It has made headlines recently due to a number of suspicious tourist deaths over the last few years.
The ministry has a three-year plan to develop the hospital. It will initially offer limited services for outpatients, emergency calls and surgery units. It will use the speedboat and helicopter transfer services of private hospitals on the mainland when required.
The second year will see it launch full services. After that, the hospital expects to have its own hyperbaric chamber for oxygen therapy and offer its own speedboat transfers, said Dr Piyasakol.
The plot was donated years ago by Jui and Jeeb Mee-pian and a wooden building built to serve as a community medical unit. This was enlarged in 1998 and upgraded in 2013 before its transition to hospital status.