Medical aid stations put on standby for Bangkok protest

BANGKOK  - Twenty-six medical-aid stations have been set up under the Public Health Ministry's supervision to provide emergency care to anti-government protesters, who will converge around Bangkok on Monday, the ministry's permanent secretary Dr Narong Sahametapat said yesterday. He added that the medical stations were ready with all the relevant equipment and blood supplies.

Narong also advised patients suffering from non-serious illnesses or those needing to top up their normal prescriptions to postpone their appointments, though he added that government hospitals will continue as per normal. He was speaking at a ministry press conference yesterday.

He also explained that all hospitals would rely on radio contact to communicate with each other and to keep up with the current situation. All requests for help submitted via the 1646, 1669 and (02) 354 8222 hotlines will also be relayed via radio.

The ministry is currently coordinating with traffic and expressway police to ensure that expressways and access to and from hospitals are kept clear for the transport of patients who need urgent care.

Dr Phichit Siriwan, a senior Thai Red Cross Society official, called on the authorities to provide protection for medical personnel on duty as well as to give them easy access to and from emergency sites. He said 400 units of blood, each 350 to 400cc, per day has been readied and people are being urged to donate more blood. He said vans collecting blood donations have been parked at several locations in Bangkok. Phichit also said that officials would use all means of transport, even motorcycles, to ensure blood supplies are maintained.

Dr Anucha Setsathia, a senior official from the National Institute for Emergency Medicine, said all ambulances and emergency medical service vehicles will be inspected thoroughly at all times. He was responding to allegations that weapons are possibly being smuggled in ambulances and other related vehicles for use during the "Bangkok shutdown", which will kick off on Monday.

He added that the institute's key objectives were to ensure that all relevant agencies are cooperating, that all patients are treated in an unbiased manner, the safety of all medical personnel is ensured and that they have full access to all emergency vehicles. The agency has also launched a campaign to raise awareness on safety.

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