Ex-air force doctors recalled for virus fight

Ex-air force doctors recalled for virus fight

Physicians being dispatched to help several military hospitals

Fifty former military doctors rise as they reenlist in the Royal Thai Air Force to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic amid a rising number of cases. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Fifty former military doctors rise as they reenlist in the Royal Thai Air Force to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic amid a rising number of cases. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Fifty former military doctors have been recalled to the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) in an urgent mission to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although the government has managed to slow down daily infection rate hikes, authorities are still labouring under huge workloads taking care of patients and processing new arrivals at state quarantine facilities.

The air force has also joined the fight, "so we need to prepare our medical personnel for the situation", air force chief ACM Maanat Wongwat said as he thanked doctors in a welcoming ceremony held on Wednesday at Navaminda Kasatriyadhiraj Royal Air Force Academy in northern Bangkok.

It is the first time the air force has called up former-officers to reinforce its military personnel.

"Everyone has both air force blood and spirit as a doctor," ACM Maanat said. "We will fight the war against this virus together."

All the doctors previously served at air force-run hospitals before resigning to work at private hospitals or opening their own clinics. Most of the doctors, aged under 50, will serve the air force from April 15 to 30.

Some of them will be assigned to treat patients at Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital and Royal Thai Air Force Hospital (Sikan), while others will help officers at the Flying Training School in Nakhon Pathom's Kamphaeng Saen district, where 75 Thais returning from Indonesia are being kept in quarantine.

Each doctor will be given a per diem allowance of 240 baht, equal to the rate for officers under the air force's reserve command. They will work in shifts, each lasting 15 days.

"I raised no questions when the air force called me," said Sqn Ldr Nathi Diphorm, who is working at Bamrungrad Hospital. "As a soldier, I'm ready to join the mission."

Other fellow doctors conveyed similar sentiments, while expressing gratitude to their colleagues at private hospitals who are picking up their workloads.

Among the group is a 53-year-old doctor who is volunteering to help the air force, although he has not been recalled. Plt Off Worawit Phunsuwan, an otorhinolaryngologist running his own clinic, has likewise decided to talk part in the effort out of patriotic duty.

"As for the impact on my life," he said. "I simply overlook it."

The air force is also following an urgent policy to have state agencies cut their budgets to enable the government to fund measures against the Covid-19 pandemic and cope with its impact on the economy.

"We will slash 23% of our annual budget," ACM Maanat said.

The decrease will not seriously affect development plans, although the air force will be required to adjust some projects and outlays, he said.

The air force will reportedly delay a 2.4-billion-baht T-50 trainer-jet order from South Korea, as well as the upgrade of C-130 aircraft and other construction projects worth over 3 billion baht.

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