BANGKOK - Health advocates are calling on the Public Health Ministry to reform the cost of medical treatment to reduce inequality in the country's health system.
Supatra Nacapew, who sits on a panel of the People's Health Systems Movement and is a director for AIDS Rights, said the price of medicine should be reduced to make it more affordable to patients.
She was speaking at the second forum on "Direction for Thailand's Reform", organised jointly by the NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-COD) and the People's Health System Movement.
Supatra said it was necessary for the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) to reform its role leading to changes in the medical system.
"The problem now is that most hospitals must buy their medicines directly from drug firms. But medicine prices would be lower if the GPO stepped in," she said, "If patients and hospitals could buy the medicines they needed from the GPO, the community would enjoy greater health security."
She added that reforming the role of the GPO would not only reduce medical costs but also solve the problem of medicine shortages.
She said Thai patients faced shortages of some types of medicines such as anti-retroviral drugs.
Vachira Bothpiboon, former-president of the Rural Doctors Society, said the Public Health Ministry should proactively work with agencies to protect patients' rights.
"Today, some patients, such as those needing mental treatment, haven't enjoyed the right to healthcare they're entitled to," he said.
Saree Ongsomwang, the president of Foundation For Consumers, said that relevant agencies must strive to protect the rights of people needing emergency medical services too.
She said most private medical facilities now required emergency patients to pay money up front before receiving treatment.
Saree also believed private hospitals should reserve 10 per cent of their beds for emergency cases.
She added that these private hospitals should increase their number of beds as their profits grew.
"The more profit they make from the stock exchange, the more beds they should provide to help patients who need to be under close medical supervision," she said.
Vachira said it was also necessary that doctors be seriously encouraged and motivated to work for state hospitals.
"We may need motivational measures such as higher pay," he said, adding that many doctors and medical workers had chosen to work for private medical facilities in return for better remuneration.
Vachira said the availability of doctors was a key element in delivering good healthcare to patients.