“Medical tourism is not making care for Thais more expensive”

The Health Service Support Department is dismissing claims that Thai patients are having to pay more for medical treatments due to the government’s Medical Tourism Policy.

HSSD director general Dr Nattawuth Prasertsiripong insist measures have been put in place to control prices charged at private and government hospitals.

“Medical tourism does not affect the price that Thais have to pay.”

As for the brain-drain problem, with talented medical practitioners leaving state hospitals for better pay at private hospitals serving foreigners, Nattawuth said the government is addressing this issue by amending the Medical Facilities Act, which allows private medical facilities to offer educational services and training, as well as conduct research.

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“This means they will be able to develop their own human resources.”

According to Nattawuth, medical tourism is a good policy because it generates a lot of money for the economy and supports Thailand’s goal of becoming a medical hub. Thailand already holds the top spot in Asia when it comes to the number of hospitals meeting standards set by the Joint Commission International – a US-based organisation that focuses on patient safety and quality of healthcare provided in the international community.

Dr Aurchat Kanjanapitak, former president of the Private Hospitals Association, also pointed out that Thai patients outnumber foreigners at all hospitals, even those that have the highest number of foreign patients.

“Not a single private hospital has shunned a Thai patient,” he claimed.

He also denied that the brain-drain problem still exists, adding “the country’s medical sector is adequately staffed now”.

Thailand’s Development Research Institute research director Dr Viroj Naranong says that Malaysia and Vietnam were also trying to establish themselves as medical hubs.

“If medical treatment in Thailand becomes too expensive, foreign patients may just switch to other countries,” he said.

The claims come at a time when Thailand’s high value baht has made medical treatment expensive for overseas visitors from some countries.

Original article: The Nation

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