Hospital heart operation ban sows alarm

Hospital heart operation ban sows alarm

'Life or death' concern for many patients

With all heart surgery at the popular hospital now banned, the Public Health Ministry says it will see what it can do about caring for dozens of heart patients already scheduled for operations. (Photo via Google Maps)
With all heart surgery at the popular hospital now banned, the Public Health Ministry says it will see what it can do about caring for dozens of heart patients already scheduled for operations. (Photo via Google Maps)

The Public Health Ministry is working to solve issues arising from Mongkutwattana Hospital being barred from delivering heart surgery to patients under the universal healthcare scheme, otherwise known as the gold card programme, from next month, says Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn.

Dr Piyasakol said Wednesday he was open to a discussion with all parties concerned as fears grew over patients due for surgery at the hospital from October onwards possibly being denied the service, which could have life-threatening consequences.

"If the public interest is at stake, I'm ready to talk," he said.

His remark came after the National Health Security Office (NHSO), which runs the gold card scheme, inspected the privately-run Mongkutwattana Hospital and determined it does not have a heart surgeon among permanent staff, which is a vital criterion in assessing a hospital's ability to effectively perform heart operations.

However, the hospital director, Rienthong Nanna, said the hospital hires at least eight part-time doctors, many of them highly-experienced heart specialists, who are on standby 24 hours a day.

Dr Rienthong said earlier the ban on the hospital performing heart surgeries would result in operations planned for 40-50 gold-card scheme members between next month and December being suspended. The patients would have to be referred to other hospitals, which would involve a long queue.

Mongkutwattana Hospital currently serves more than 200,000 gold-card programme members who are either registered with the hospital or are referrals.

Dr Riengthong said he planned to complain to the public health minister as it is a matter of life or death.

Dr Piyasakol, as chairman of the NHSO board, acknowledged Wednesday that the notice was published in the Royal Gazette on May 4 and takes effect from Oct 1.

He had consulted the NHSO secretary-general over the issue and decided the office and the hospital must discuss the problem.

The issue will be raised at the NHSO board meeting Thursday, as participants attempt to come up with a solution, the minister said.

Dr Piysakol insisted he was willing to have everyone, including the hospital and the office executives, join discussions on finding a way out.

NHSO secretary-general Dr Prajaksawit Lebnak assured that patients scheduled for heart operations at Mongkutwattana Hospital will not be affected.

In case of emergencies, the hospital is bound by duty and medical ethics to provide heart surgery and the NHSO has sufficient funds to pay for the procedures for gold card programme members, he said.

Dr Rienthong, meanwhile, insisted he will not hire a full-time heart surgeon as the current system of hiring part-time surgeons works effectively for the hospital despite the concerns raised.

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