Hospital “dream’ still mired in standoff

PHUKET CITY: Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) President Anchalee Vanich-Thepabutr has spoken out against Phuket Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura’s decision to delay the buyout of the abandoned Phya Thai hospital.

“The purchase of the abandoned Phya Thai hospital is like a dream that has fallen apart. I started the process with the Governor on January 13, and the provincial committee for this project and the OrBorJor committee negotiated the [buyout] price with the TAMC [Thai Asset Management Corporation],” Anchalee said on Monday.

The TAMC agreed to sell the property at a discounted price of 315 million baht, down from 492 million baht, but only until the end of April.

Just before that deadline, Gov Udomsak appointed a special committee to reconsider the project, prompting K. Anchalee to negotiate for the deadline to be pushed back a month. It is now well past the extended deadline, but the Governor still refuses to budge.

The project needs the Governor’s approval of a request for a 215-million-baht loan from Krung Thai Bank and the Government Savings Bank.

However, Gov Udomsak is withholding his approval until he is satisfied that the new hospital will be run effectively and in line with Public Health Ministry objectives.

“So now the project is just like a dream that cannot come true, and I can’t ask the TAMC to hold down the price any longer because it is now out of our [OrBorJor] control. We have to wait until the next Governor sees that there are not enough hospitals to treat the number of patients in Phuket; then this project will be reconsidered,” K. Anchalee said.

She added that Gov Udomsak should keep in mind that he was the one who asked then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for 800 million baht to buy the Phya Thai building during one of the PM’s visits to Phuket.

“Why is he thinking about the management of the hospital and the problems that might follow, and what will be done with the hospital if it is not a success?

“He does not have the answers for us, and we’re the ones who will be held responsible for it. In the meantime, we can save money and buy it for 315 million baht, but still he does not give his approval,” K. Anchalee complained.

“We will outsource the management to Ramathibodi and Baan Paew Hospitals in Bangkok, which can provide recently-graduated doctors and nurses. He is worried about something that has not come about yet, but he does not seem to be worried about the patients who have to wait for treatment or pay more for treatment at private clinics [than they would at overtaxed state hospitals],” K. Anchalee added.

But the Governor is standing his ground. He told the Gazette, “If the OrBorJor wanted to buy the Phya Thai hospital so it would become a state hospital, then I would have no problem with approving the loan requests.

“What they should consider carefully is what the hospital will be used for and how it will be managed. Also, are there enough doctors and nurses for the new hospital? And if not, what will they do?

“Doctors and nurses prefer to work for private hospitals because they offer better pay than state hospitals. The OrBorJor should consider this, too.

“They should also ensure that nothing contradicts with the Health Ministry objectives, which are different [from those of the private sector],” he added.

“I have suggested that the OrBorJor discuss this further with [Caretaker] Public Health Minister Pinit Jarusombat, {Caretaker] Deputy Interior Minister Somchai Soontornwat and Department of Local Administration Director-General Saroj Katchamart, but we have not had a good chance to talk and come to a conclusion.

“I will not approve the request for the loans unless these three people also agree,” Gov Udomsak said.

“Slow and sure is better than rushing and making mistakes. We should do this step-by-step and make sure that we do it right,” he added.

Phuket News
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