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Phuket hospitals defend fractured pricing

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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SPECIAL REPORT

PHUKET: Top officials at the recently opened Phuket Provincial Hospital this week defended the facility’s practice of charging foreigners greatly inflated fees compared to its prices for Thais.

The Phuket Gazette spoke to Phuket Provincial Administrative Organization (PPAO) Vice President Chawalit Na Nakorn, who is also on the Provincial Hospital’s board of directors, about the large gap between charges for Thai and foreign patients.

“Our hospital aims to provide efficient health care for people and attempts to cover everyone. This is why we have different kinds of patient payment schemes, such as social security patients, the 30-baht health insurance policy patients, patients who are government employees, self-payment patients and patients with private health insurance,” Mr Chawalit explained.

“Every hospital, even those that are government-owned and operated by the Ministry of Public Health, have different medical treatment rates for Thai and foreign patients. Our rates for foreign patients are partly based on the range of prices as set by the Ministry of Public Health.

“However, our hospital management committee, after considering the issue, decided to adjust the prices for foreigners,” he said.

The “decision” included inputs from the Thonburi Hospital management group, which provides the medical staff and services. It also used the range of fees that the government-run Vachira Phuket Hospital charges foreigners as a base.

“Foreigners use our services and we do not have the funding to provide the needed treatment at the same prices that we can offer Thais. Most Thais are covered by either the 30-baht national health scheme or by the mandatory social security coverage that must be provided for any persons working, or they are government employees. That is not including Thais who are covered by their own private health insurance.

“For patients under all these categories, the hospital receives some form of reimbursement for providing treatment,” Mr Chawalit said.

Any foreigners who have been issued a social security number, which is mandatory for foreigners working in the Kingdom, are eligible for the same discounted rates offered to Thais claiming medical treatment under the same system, he noted.

Mr Chawalit added that Phuket contributed much of the national income generated by tourism to the central government.

“But when the central government allocates its annual budget, most of it goes to government hospitals,” he said.

“We do not receive a formal budget from central government to operate the hospital, although they do partially support the 30-baht health insurance policy by paying us on average 1,900 to 2,000 baht per person per year. However, that is not enough to cover the actual treatment fees,” he added.

“As we are not funded by the Ministry of Public Health, we receive our funding directly from the PPAO. This is one of the reasons that we have to charge foreign patients more than Thai patients,” he said.

As the PPAO owns the hospital, he added, any profits made by the facility will be used in PPAO projects to the benefit of Phuket taxpayers.

“If any foreign patient wants to know the cost of treatment beforehand, they can check with the staff at the international department before the treatment begins. However, the price will be approximate as it depends on how severe their malady is and what type of treatment they will receive.

“If any foreign patients need help, or has questions or thinks he is being overcharged, the staff at the international department are available to help,” Mr Chawalit said.

STANDARD PRACTICE

A senior officer at the Vachira Phuket Hospital’s international department confirmed to the Gazette that this government facility, too, does impose higher charges against foreigners than Thais.

“The rates for foreign patients are set by the hospital management committee, based on the range of medical treatment costs as set by the Ministry of Public Health and the Medical Council of Thailand,” the officer explained.

“For a doctor’s visit of less than 10 minutes, the cost is 200 baht; between 10 and 30 minutes, 300 baht; and more than 30 minutes, 500 baht,” she said.

“We do not charge a hospital fee as that is included in the doctor’s appointment fee, and an administrative fee is charged if the patient has private health insurance because hospital staff will have to contact the overseas insurance company.

“We charge for the international calling costs and service. The cost will be 500 to 1,000 baht.”

A physician evaluation or management fee will not be charged if the patient does not undergo an operation, and the prices of the medicines and treatment for foreign patients, except for operations, are the same as for Thai patients.

“Foreigners covered by the social security health care scheme, if they are registered at the hospital, will receive treatment free or at the same cost as Thai nationals,” the officer added.

A reader writes:
I went yesterday to the Phuket Provincial Hospital for a doctor’s visit that was only five minutes as there was nothing wrong with me.

After that, I sat waiting in a special section for 30 minutes while staff made out a bill for 1,100 baht for that five minutes with the doctor. A physician valuation/management fee of 500 baht; a hospital fee of 200 baht, and an administrative fee of a further 400 baht.


That is more than I pay at Bangkok Hospital Phuket or at the Phuket International Hospital.

I asked them why it was so expensive, to which I was told they had different prices for foreigners. I left with a bad feeling as I don’t expect to be ripped off by a decent hospital.

If they want to charge fees like that they should at least make us aware of it beforehand.

– Gazette reader
(Click here to see our reader’s hospital receipt)

This report appears also in the current (October 20) issue of the hard-copy Phuket Gazette.

— Orawin Narabal

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Politics

Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI | The Thaiger

Back in the news again. Phuket’s Sri Panwa Resort’s land title deed is now to be investigated by the Department of Special Investigation after a petition was filed to determine whether the deed was procured legally. Veera Somkwamkid, the secretary-general of the People’s Network Against Corruption, filed the petition along with 167 pages of documents pertaining to his accusations that Thawatchai Anukun, a land fraud suspect, had unlawfully issued land title deeds to plots of land in Phuket before he mysteriously died in a detention room while in DSI custody in 2016.

He was allegedly being investigated for falsifying land deeds between the years of 1998 and 2001. Veera claims before the title deed was issued on the plot, the land was part of a forest known by locals as Pa Kae.

“Back then, 10 families that had occupied the plots for about 40 years had title deed requests rejected. The reason given was the land was part of a forest reserve used by the navy.”

However, Watchara Buathong, Phuket’s current land official, says the Sri Panwa resort had legally acquired its 56-rai, none of which was ever state land. Local resident Khwanjai Khumban, backed this claim, saying her father and cousins had sold most of the land to the resort, and she could produce documents to account for at least 12 rai of the disputed area.

Phuket's Sri Panwa Resort's land title deed to be investigated for legality by DSI | News by The Thaiger

Meanwhile, the Social Security Office, is also under fireas it is being asked to explain why it invested in the hotel’s trust fund. The department, which is under Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, in which its minister says he doesn’t know if the property has been legally built and points to the responsibility to the DSI to investigate. This was echoed by at least one opposition MP and anti-corruption activists.

The hotel, situated on Cape Panwa, in Phuket’s Muang district, has been under recent scrutiny due to its owner, Vorasit Issara, accusing Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, a co-leader of the anti-government United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration group, of offending the monarchy at last weekend’s protest at Sanam Luang.

Vorasit posted on Instagram that Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul should be jailed, further falsely claiming that she is not Thai when, in fact, Panusaya was found to have been born in Nonthaburi and is a Thai citizen.

“This bullshit has got to stop. She is not Thai. Who is she working for? This one needs to be in prison”.

Such a statement has received wide backlash from netizens with some taking to Trip Advisor and other websites to post bad reviews of the resort, prompting it to suspend advertising on such sites.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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Phuket

Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital

The Thaiger

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Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital | The Thaiger

A female prisoner is on the run after escaping from Vachira Hospital in Phuket during a doctor’s appointment. 58 year old Siri Phodam allegedly escaped after asking her prison escort officer to use the toilet. But she took a long time to come back, and was found to have escaped. CCTV cameras caught her dressed in a blue hospital patient shirt and a sarong leaving the hospital quickly. A Phuket prison officer says the woman is 158 centimetres tall and has dark skin.

“Some of our own officers are searching for her, and we have also sent the prisoner’s description to all Phuket police stations. However, at this stage we have not found any clues.

Female prisoner on the run after escaping from Phuket Hospital | News by The Thaiger

“If anyone finds a person matching the prisoner’s appearance, please inform us by calling 076 212 104.”

Siri was imprisoned after being charged with posessing illegal drugs and lived in Moo 2, Rawai.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival gets the green light – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

WARNING: The content below contains photos and videos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

Somehow Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival is to go ahead next month, but officials say they will ask participants to strictly observe social distancing. Good luck with that! For those who don’t know, the festival isn’t exactly known for the food. It’s known for blood, body mutilation and more blood.

During street processions for the weeklong event, also known as the Nine Gods Festival, so called “mah songs” are known to practice self-mutilation and are said to enter a trance-like state, channeling spirits through their body. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and many suggest the mah song acts like a horse for the spirit to ride.

Many mah songs pierce their checks, ears and lips, some with large swords and thick needles. Some slice their tongues continuously for hours, blood dripping down on the street. Others appear to be in a trace walk barefoot as firecrackers explode on the ground.

Mah songs march down Phuket’s streets for hours with a team of devotees to help tend to their wounds, adjust the piercings, wipe away drool and blood, and keep them hydrated. It’s understood that devotees wear white as a symbol of purity. It’s also reported that they abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex during the weeklong festival.

It seems gruesome, but it’s actually very spiritual. Business owners and locals line the street, some setting up altars. Mah songs stop at each one and do a quick ritual. Some mah songs carry a black flag, waving it over onlookers who bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position. Some spend time blessing the elderly and handing out bracelets to children. During a procession last year, a woman held up a bracelet as said “the ‘Spirit’ gave this to my mother.”

This year, the festival will have to be a little different to abide by coronavirus prevention measures. The Bangkok Post says it’s the first festival since the outbreak. The head festival organiser Prasert Fukthongphol says “we will seriously enforce social distancing measures and require all participants to wear face masks.”

The grotesque piercings, noisy parades and visits to the shrine, are good news for Phuket’s tourism and bad news if you’re a vegetable. Many adherents to the Chinese-heritage local festival will go without sex, alcohol and meat for the week of so of the festival. The week of events and ceremonies hopes to scare away the bad gods again but, especially this year, attract some extra visitors to the festival.

Another Vegetarian Festival in Chon Buri has also been given the green light. The event is planned for October 16 to the 26. This year’s main event for the festival will be in Naklua at Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Foundation at the Sein Sua Chinese Temple, but many other events will be around the city throughout the week.

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival gets the green light - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

Catch up with the latest daily “Thailand News Today” here on The Thaiger.

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