Activist medico objects to transfer
Concern that shift is politically motived
published : 28 Jan 2023 at 05:46
newspaper section: News
writer: Apinya Wipatayotin
The transfer of government critic Dr Supat Hasuwannakit to a southern border town has sparked controversy, with some alleging it is being done due to his outspoken role with the Rural Doctor Society.
A source said an order for Dr Supat's transfer was signed by the Ministry of Public Health's inspector-general Sawat Apiwachaneewong and took effect on Wednesday.
While the transfer is official, Dr Supat said on his Facebook page on Friday that he had not received a transfer letter as of that time.
Dr Supat, who is also the director of Chana Hospital, is being transferred to Saba Yoi Hospital in Songkhla's most southern district.
He believed the transfer order is due to his role as the president of the Rural Doctor Society, which has been critical of Public Health Ministry policies about cannabis use, Covid-19 and vaccine management.
The Rural Doctor Society has also aired concerns about an "unusual" reshuffle of the ministry's officials and procurement of antigen test kits (ATKs).
It is a perpetual thorn in the government's side on a range of health issues, with its critics seeing the transfer in this case as politically motivated.
Dr Supat indicated in his Facebook post that he would take legal action over the transfer, saying he believed it is a breach of Section 157 of the Criminal Code.
He did not say who he would sue over the matter.
News of Dr Supat's transfer prompted locals to gather in Chana district, including one gathering at the Songkhla provincial public health office by southern NGOs opposing the transfer order.
Opposition Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat has also spoken out about the transfer's suspected political dimensions, while saying Dr Supat always raises his voice for the benefit of the people.
A spokesman for the Prachachat Party also weighed in, saying staff appointments or transfers of officials in the southernmost provinces should not be intended to punish them, adding that contradicts how transfers are meant to be carried out in the South.
The party also agreed with Dr Supat that cannabis is an illicit drug that poses a threat to society, and demanded clarification about the transfer order affecting Dr Supat from the Ministry of Public Health.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Dr Supat's transfer was not associated with his criticism of the ministry's policies, notably about cannabis or its ATK procurement efforts.
Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, the public health permanent secretary, said senior officials are transferred every four years while serving in remote areas under a ministry regulation.
The Chana area is now developed, so the transfer is aimed at helping develop Saba Yoi district, Dr Opas said, adding the doctor's salary and conditions remain unchanged.
- Supat Hasuwannakit
- Rural Doctor Society