Thai health volunteers oppose retirement age limit in new bill

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

Village health volunteers nationwide have expressed strong opposition to an age limit proposed in a Public Health Ministry-sponsored bill, which would mandate their retirement at the age of 70.

The bill, currently open for online public hearing until this Thursday, July 11, aims to impose an age cap on health volunteers, replacing the current lifelong service term. Volunteers in Chiang Mai plan to submit a letter of protest to the provincial governor, while their counterparts in Khon Kaen decry the proposed limit as unfair, particularly to those who have dedicated decades to the role without financial support.

The Department of Health Service Support (DHSS) stated that the bill intends to enhance the skills of health volunteers for family and community health promotion, formally recognise their contributions, and ensure they receive appropriate benefits. The bill proposes the establishment of a panel, chaired by the public health permanent secretary, to support and promote health volunteers’ work, along with a fund to back their efforts.

Thailand boasts 1 million health volunteers who are instrumental in advancing family and community health security.

Ketsarin Saengsawat, a health volunteer from Khon Kaen, criticised the proposed age limit as unfair to long-serving volunteers who began their roles before the introduction of a monthly allowance.

“If the age limit applies to new volunteers, that’s acceptable. But the current ones should be allowed to work until they die or resign.”

She also highlighted that the role has gained appeal in recent years due to a monthly allowance of 2,000 baht and an increase in the funeral welfare fund from 150,000 baht to 540,000 baht.

Age limit raise

Ura Prapmontri, another Khon Kaen volunteer, argued that age should not be seen as a barrier, noting that many volunteers have successfully adapted to digital technology. She suggested an age limit of 80 instead of 70.

“If they are forced to retire, we’ll fight this injustice. Those who rely on the monthly allowance will be affected. The amount can help with their household expenses and debt payments.”

Treechada Srithada, spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, clarified that the age limit would not apply to those already serving when the law takes effect. However, these volunteers must register within one year of the law’s implementation to retain their positions.

She urged health volunteers to participate in the public hearing process, assuring them that their feedback would be considered before the bill is finalised and submitted to the Cabinet, reported Bangkok Post.

HealthThailand News

Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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