The Ministry of Public Health, the Department of Corrections, and the National Health Security Office have forged an alliance to improve and monitor health conditions for the 260,000 prisoners across Thailand, stressing that all prisoners should have equal access to medical treatment.
Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, the department’s permanent secretary, has said that a united effort by the three parties will work towards the prevention and control of communicable diseases in overcrowded prisons throughout the country. This commitment will be solidified under a cooperative framework, which was signed by the Department of Disease Control and the Department of Corrections.
The newly established guidelines primarily aim to tackle and prevent the spread of various infections and illnesses, including tuberculosis, syphilis, AIDS, Hepatitis B, and other respiratory diseases. This will involve offering vaccinations against influenza and Covid-19, as well as managing data-sharing systems to promote greater disease monitoring and control.
Dr Karnkawinpong noted the importance of prioritising healthcare management for prisoners, particularly for the elderly, who face higher risks of contracting communicable infections in such confined environments. The cooperative framework seeks to elaborate on the issue of equal treatment and aims to provide essential medical care for all incarcerated individuals, in line with the principle of equal rights.
However, Ayuth Sintoppan, head of the Department of Corrections, emphasised the challenges faced in meeting international healthcare standards in Thai prisons. With a recorded national prisoner count of 266,339 – the second highest in the ASEAN region – Thailand’s capacity is severely stretched, particularly given that its prisons were designed to accommodate up to 200,000 inmates.
Sintoppan also reported that during the previous year, 33 outbreaks of infections had occurred within the country’s prisons. The department is now working with its partner organisations to implement safety measures, such as increased health screenings and vaccination programs, to prevent such outbreaks from reoccurring.
The collaborative health initiative launched by the Ministry of Public Health, the Department of Corrections, and the National Health Security Office indicates a progressive move toward upholding the rights and well-being of prisoners in Thailand. By ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their criminal history, have access to essential medical treatment and preventative healthcare, the government is taking a crucial step in promoting a fair and compassionate approach to prisoner welfare.
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