Thailand's hospitals are no place for political statements

Thailand's hospitals are no place for political statements

THAILAND - In a normal situation, it would be a worthy act for the Public Health Ministry and state hospitals nationwide to erect banners calling for an end to corruption and violence, but in the current political turmoil, such banners are likely to create conflict among medical workers and patients.

Banners with statements about "anti-corruption" and "stop violence" have been erected at the Public Health Ministry and at state hospitals by the Medical Workers Community Network.

The ministry's permanent secretary Dr Narong Sahametapat is a key network member and during the past few weeks has come out to oppose the caretaker government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

During recent months, the Medical Workers Community Network has played a prominent role in the political arena, protesting against the government and alleged corruption. At the same time, the movement has been heavily criticised over whether it is appropriate for medical workers to use government offices and hospitals to display their political feelings.

It seems many medical workers were happy and proud when they saw Public Health Ministry buildings and hospitals covered by banners expressing their political stance. Some had taken "selfie" pictures with the banners and posted them on their social-media sites.

Meanwhile, people in other provinces such as Nakhon Sawan and Ratchaburi have rallied at the hospitals and asked medical workers to remove the banners, saying medical centres should be free from politics.

Public Health has insisted that all medical workers must provide treatment and save people's lives, no matter what political side they were on.

The network's use of government offices to express a political stance is, in fact, likely to create conflict with medical workers and patients who do not agree with them.

It may be a basic right for every person to express a political opinion, but medical workers should not use medical institutes or government offices to tell other people their personal beliefs.

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