'Hospitals must treat all patients'

BANGKOK - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said some private hospitals may not know that people who are registered under the three national healthcare schemes are eligible to receive emergency medical treatment at private hospitals taking part in any of the schemes, without having to foot any medical bills.

The three national healthcare schemes are the National Health Security Fund, the Social Security Fund and the Civil Servants Medical Benefit Fund.

"Private hospitals must provide emergency medical treatment to save the patient's life, based on humanitarian principles," the prime minister said.

Yingluck said patients asked to pay medical bills in advance after being sent to receive emergency medical treatment at a private hospital would be repaid by their health fund.

The government started merging the emergency medical services under the three main national healthcare funds last year. Under the scheme, patients in a critical condition are allowed to receive life-saving treatment at private hospitals that joined state programmes. People do not have to be worried about the financial burden under the scheme, as the National Health Security Office (NHSO) will pay in advance for them.

But since the government kicked off this scheme, the NHSO reported that about 25 per cent of 241 participating hospitals have asked patient to sign a bond and promise to pay in advance for medical bills before providing treatment.

The Medical Malpractice Patients Network on asked the government on Friday to set up a neutral panel to control the price of medical treatment provided at private hospitals, especially emergency medical services, as many patients have to shoulder the financial burden for such treatment.