PHUKET CITY: After years of failed negotiations, the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) has taken a step forward in buying the abandoned Phyathai Phuket Hospital building and re-opening the facility as a hospital with public organization status.
OrBorJor President Anchalee Vanich-Thepabutr met with Phuket Governor Niran Kalayanamit Wednesday afternoon to discuss buying the building for 327 million baht, with 273 million baht from regular OrBorJor budgets for fiscal 2006 and 2007 and the remainder from an OrBorJor cooperative account.
The hospital would provide affordable healthcare to middle-income earners and help ease overcrowding at Vachira Phuket Hospital, K. Anchalee said.
The building, abandoned in 2000, is under the control of the Thai Asset Management Cooperation (TAMC), a government agency set up after the 1997 financial crisis to remedy non-performing loans.
Before its closure, the building was part of the Phyathai Hospital chain run by Dr Arthit Ourairat, current chairman of the British International School, formerly Dulwich International College Phuket.
The idea to refurbish the hospital was put forward by former Phuket Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura in mid-2004 and subsequently approved by then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
However, Gov Udomsak later declined to endorse a request from the OrBorJor to loan 215 million baht from Krung Thai Bank and the Government Savings Bank to buy the building from the TAMC, citing fears the new hospital would not be run as a strictly government facility.
The stand-off was seen by most observers as politically related, as K. Anchalee is a powerful member of the Democrat Party and Gov Udomsak was appointed by the Interior Ministry, at that time controlled by Thai Rak Thai.
K. Anchalee said following the meeting that Gov Niran had “no reservations” about the new plan and that she expects him to grant the required approval for the purchase from TAMC.
The plan will be put before the OrBorJor member for a vote on the issue to take place on July 3. K. Anchalee believes the project will find little opposition in the OrBorJor, which she has headed since May, 2004.
“This is a good project for the people and a public opinion survey we conducted of over 1,000 people showed strong support for it…This project can help Vachira Phuket Hospital, which is now overloaded with patients due to all the foreign laborers who go there for treatment,” she said.
Treatment costs at the new facilities would be lower than at private hospitals, she added.
The OrBorJor will ask Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Jessada Chungpaibulpatana and members of the Phuket Provincial Health Office to form a committee to negotiate purchase terms with the TAMC.
“The first step is the purchase. After that we will discuss how to administer the hospital in a way that will increase high-quality, affordable treatment options for middle income earners. The hospital can eventually have 200 beds, but we expect to start with 50 to 75 beds in the first phase,” K. Anchalee said.
Administrative experts will be brought in from Banphaeo Hospital in Samut Sakhon Province, which already enjoys public organization status, and medical staff will be recruited from hospitals outside the province, she explained.
The OrBorJor has already contacted Mahidol University in Bangkok about the possibility of bringing in specialist on weekends, she added.
The OrBorJor plans to recoup its investment in the project within six years, she added.
However, K. Anchalee did not elaborate on whether a management company would be brought in to operate the hospital on the OrBorJor‘s behalf, as mentioned in earlier proposals.
After the meeting Gov Niran urged the OrBorJor to proceed with the project on a step-by-step basis, concentrating first on the building purchase, which he said should be completed by August.
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