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Health minister promises hospital graft investigation

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PHOTO: NNT

Further to a story reported by The Thaiger, Deputy PM and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has pledged to investigate allegations that many of the ministry’s 186 hospitals have taken kickbacks from drug companies for buying their products. He says he’ll order a formal investigation, if there is any substance to the allegations, which he admits have tarnished the reputation of the ministry.

The allegation has put Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr Sukhum Kanchanapimai at odds with the director of Khon Kaen provincial hospital, Dr Charnchai Chanworachaikul, who was recently transferred to work at the ministry by Sukhum, who then appointed the director of a hospital in the eastern Chanthaburi province to replace him during an investigation.

Charnchai stands accused, in an anonymous letter, of allegedly receiving a 5% kickback from drug companies from March to October 2018, in exchange for buying products from certain suppliers.

Anutin says that he he’ll examine all aspects of the controversy to ensure fairness to all concerned.

Manoo Sawangjaeng, an independent academic, claims that in November last year, all 186 hospitals under the Public Health Ministry received kickbacks from drug companies, citing information he gleaned from sales representatives.

Drug companies in Thailand are divided into foreign makers, local makers and trading companies. Manoo says the trading companies, which import drugs from abroad, are the most directly involved in the kickback process.

In September, 2017, the Cabinet issued an order banning state hospitals from receiving kickbacks and all forms of benefits from drug companies, but drug companies simply switched to offering ‘donations’ to hospitals to beat the ban.

The deputy secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission blames budgetary constraints for making hospitals, mostly small community hospitals, feel the need to demand kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies, to be paid into a “welfare fund” for each hospital.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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