One of Thailand’s leading health experts reckons the government needs to reform the kingdom’s healthcare system.
Assoc. Prof. Chanchai Sittipunt, dean of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, suggested at a recent seminar on Health and Wellness Sustainability that the government must shift toward people-centred health services, adding that it needs to cater to the expectations of the population. He identified primary care, integrated care, and patient-centred care as crucial aspects that need to be addressed, Thai PBS reported.
Chanchai also highlighted the diverse factors that affect health in Thailand, including PM2.5 pollution, emerging diseases, global warming, overflowing garbage, non-communicable conditions, and a fast-growing ageing population. These factors present challenges for the future health system, making it imperative to introduce reforms that create a sustainable and effective healthcare system.
Chanchai proposed integrating three core health insurance systems: the Social Security Scheme, the Universal Coverage Scheme, and the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme. He argued that the redundancy of these schemes necessitates reform to create equality, cost-effective operations, and optimize patient benefits through resource sharing and co-payment between the government and patients.
While more than 70% of the population is covered by Universal Coverage, over 10% by Social Security, and the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme takes care of the rest, Chanchai noted that the cost disparity between the schemes needs to be addressed. He stated that 48 million people with Universal Coverage cards spend about 114 billion baht of the health budget compared to 66 billion baht by civil servants despite the latter’s number is ten times lower than Universal Coverage cardholders.
Chanchai also emphasized the need to improve the primary care system to be more effective and resilient. The emergence of Covid-19 exposed pain points and problems in the healthcare system, including health access, inequality, and lack of surge capacity for emergency cases.
“The healthcare system must focus on needs, not wants based on patient-centred care. Though the Thai people now enjoy longer lives with an average age of almost 80, we have to extend the health span – the period of life during which a person is healthy. Therefore, the government should take a hard line on a Health in All policy, encouraging all parties in society to put health as the priority in any project.”
Meanwhile, Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt said that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is improving its primary care system to develop a healthy city while at the same time strengthening overall healthcare.
Chadchart emphasized the importance of health data in any health development plan. With this in mind, the BMA has taken steps to improve its ability to collect and analyze health data to better understand the health needs of residents.
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