Growing pains in the B30 medical scheme

PRACHIN BURI: Admirers of the government’s 30-baht medical scheme may wish to consider, after reading the following, whether reform is necessary. Prachinburi resident Chaluay Pantam, 37, has watched with increasing alarm over the last two years as a ping pong ball-sized lump on his right shoulder grew into a Quasimodo-like hump “weighing more than 20 kilograms.” In the meantime, the former milk deliveryman –– who lives with his live-in girlfriend, Mantana Pensuri, 49, in a tin shack in Tambon Koolampan –– has become nearly incapacitated. “It’s a terrible impediment,” he said, “I can no longer work because it’s impossible to stand up for more than 15 minutes. The pain is such that I have to take 10 tablets of paracetamol a day.” To take up the slack, K. Mantana, 49, has taken over the daily milk runs. “I earn 120 baht a day,” she explained. “It’s scarcely enough to pay for hospital expenses each day. Over the past two years we’ve had to sell everything to pay for treatment. Now we’re destitute.” What kind of treatment has K. Chaluay received? According to the couple, they have been to hospitals in Prachin Buri, Chon Buri and Bangkok – all to no avail. “No doctor has been able to answer the question, ‘What is this strange growth on my shoulder and how can it be treated?'” said K. Chaluay. The hump has grown ominously and quickly: it is 60 centimeters long – from his shoulder to his waist – and is 40 cm round. “It’s the size of a soccer ball,” noted a reporter from the vernacular newspaper, Kom Chad Luek. K. Mantana’s desperate written appeals for help, to the newspaper and to TV show BaanLekTiHa, finally brought the couple’s plight to public notice. “I just want the relevant government agency, or perhaps some good-hearted person, to help with the cost of treatments,” she explained. A doctor at the prestigious Chulalongkorn medical center was familiar with Chaluay’s case: “He came in for treatment and a sample was excised for analysis,” a newspaper reporter was told upon inquiry, “but K. Chaluay refused to undergo surgery – why, we don’t know. “But if he’d like to begin treatment anew, Chulalongkorn Hospital is happy to accept him; he’s an old patient of ours. However, the condition is now too far gone to treat with surgery.” The issue of how it will be treated was not addressed –– but, whatever happens, K. Chaluay will probably face it with equanimity; his name means “species of graceful meditators.”

Thailand News
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