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Special Report: Phuket hospitals facing huge losses from uninsured patients

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Phuket hospitals facing huge losses from uninsured patients | The Thaiger

PHUKET: There is no lack of evidence about the alarming number of tourist deaths in the ‘Land of Smiles’. According to the ‘Bureau of Prevention and Assistance in Tourist Fraud’, there was a whopping 54 per cent increase in tourist deaths in 2015 (latest data available) as compared to 2014. This figure includes tourists only. The actual number including expats is likely higher, as can be seen in the statistics provided by the Farang Deaths project.

Private hospitals in Phuket were asked to answer the same questions referred to in this article, but they declined to participate in the story.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade estimated that there were 109 deaths of Australians alone in Thailand between July 2014 and June 2015. Given the likelihood that a foreigner might be injured in Phuket, clear protocols on uninsured foreign patients are surprisingly missing.

According to Methavee Maneesri of Vachira Phuket Hospital, when foreign patients are unable to pay their bills, the hospital has to absorb the expenses. Last year alone, the hospital wrote off 4.3 million baht of unpaid bills incurred by foreign patients. Over the last nine years, Vachira Phuket Hospital says it has written off more than 24 million baht in such losses.

“Due to medical ethics, we do not pick and choose patients before we initiate life-saving treatment. The questions of payment and insurance coverage are always secondary to saving patients’ lives,” said Ms Methavee. However, patients with non-life-threatening conditions will be asked to show proper insurance coverage or make an adequate deposit before treatment is administered.

“Given the large amount of annual write-offs for saving critical foreign patients, it simply doesn’t make sense for us to shoulder the cost of treatments that patients should be able to pay with proper insurance coverage. After all, these are conditions that are not dangerous to life in the near future. Even Thais have to show proper insurance coverage before the treatment can be initiated,” said Ms Methavee. Feeling the financial effects that uninsured foreign patients cause on the hospital’s bottom line, the international department, currently led by her, was established to handle the issue.

According to the National News Bureau of Thailand (NNT), medical treatments for emergency patients at hospitals within 72 hours of a patient’s arrival there, no longer incur any charges to such patients. This is a basic benefit for all Thai citizens.

Government Spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd says this Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) was put into effect from April 1 this year, allowing patients to undergo emergency treatments at any nearby hospital without payment for the first 72 hours.

The practice will adhere to the Ministry of Public Health’s regulations and protocol for emergency treatment costs. All hospitals in Thailand are obliged to follow the protocol.

Asked how the financial loss is being mitigated, Ms Methavee said that Vachira tries its best to contact the family and relatives of each patient. If the family members refuse to care for the patients or support them financially, the hospital ‘usually’ covers the expenses for life-threatening illnesses until the patient either expires or can be released. Most patients are released by either voluntary self-deportation or signing a debt agreement with the hospital.

A plea for help to embassies usually results in letters of appreciation with no monetary or personnel support, Ms Methavee explains.

“Sometimes, a patient in our care is unable to go back to his home country, or is in a sufficiently serious condition to require a nurse aide. A lot of money is needed to arrange for such transportation. We are trying our best to budget for it,” said Ms Methavee.

“Even without the ability to pay, no patient is ever held against their will,” said Ms Methavee.
She guaranteed that the hospital has no policy to hold patients against their will or confiscate passports as payment guarantees.

While the protocols at Vachira are beneficial to foreign patients, those of other hospitals could be less so, she explained.

“Different hospitals have different procedures when a foreign patient with no health insurance is unable to pay the bill,” said Dr Weerasak Lawtongkum, vice director of Vachira.

Some cases could be construed as a total disregard for medical ethics when a hospital finds out that a foreign patient might not be able to the pay the bill.

Dr Weerasak gave an example of a case in which an illegal immigrant walked into another hospital’s emergency room with a knife wound in the abdomen.

Since the patient was not likely to be able to pay the bill, that hospital refused to provide the patient with care. Instead, he was put in an ambulance, driven to Vachira’s emergency room, and left there.

“They were fully capable of treating the serious injury. However, they did not want to shoulder the irrecoverable expense from doing so,” said Dr Weerasak.

In less extreme cases, many foreign patients are transferred from private hospitals to Vachira when their financial situations have become less than ideal.

“We use the rates announced by Thai Ministry of Public Health. The same government-subsidized rates apply to both Thais and foreigners. [This cheaper rate is] the reason private hospitals sometimes refer patients to us,” said Dr Weerasak.

Uninsured patients with serious illnesses who are transferred to Vachira eventually become a financial burden for the hospital.

Many countries around the world require that tourists entering their countries have health insurance. Members of the European Union or UAE are notable examples.

Given the recent push for Phuket to become a global premier travel destination, the government has to resolve the financial burden on the hospitals and set a clear protocol regarding uninsured foreigners.

Concrete steps need to be implemented to further the growth of Phuket into the celebrated tourist destination the government wants it to be.

— Dr Tanwa Apornthip



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Phuket

Power outage hits parts of Thalang

The Thaiger

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Power outage hits parts of Thalang | The Thaiger

Electricity was shut off in Thalang today. The The Phuket Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) announced the outage.

Residents of Thalang have had to endure blackouts from 9am to 4.30pm today as the PEA continues its work on high power voltage systems in the area.

Areas being affected are from Makprok PTT Gas Station to Baan Mueang Mai Intersection and from Baan Mueang Mai Intersection to Mud Dok Khao Intersection on Thepkrasattri Road.

As always, the PEA apologises for the inconvenience. (Maybe we can sit in the PEA and enjoy their air-conditioning)

For more information contact the Operations and Maintenance Department of the Provincial Electricity Authority on 076 386 880 – 2

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Phuket

Top 10 ways to save water at home

The Thaiger

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Top 10 ways to save water at home | The Thaiger

Hot weather and Thailand’s boom-or-bust water issues (floods in wet season and water shortages in the hot season) are a part of our life. And it’s predicted that there will be hotter hot seasons and wetter wet-seasons in the future. Even if we’re not sure what the future brings we should all be conscious of our water usage, be more self-sufficient and empower ourselves to do something positive to protect Thailand’s precious water reserves.

Here are a few ideas that may help you become more water-wise…

• Shower with a bucket. Don’t let all that water pour down the drain and stick a bucket next to you whilst you shower. The plants will be grateful for an extra drink on hot days and save you using the hose sometimes. Whilst you’re at it, cut your 5 minute shower down to three minutes. Really, you can sing somewhere else! And, really, do we absolutely have to have four showers a day? No. A fresh spray of the deodorant and a fresh shirt will be perfectly OK during water shortages. For couples, well, shower together!

• Leave the water running whilst brushing your teeth? Try turning it off until you want to rinse out your mouth. All that useable water flowing down the basic drain whilst you’re brushing isn’t making your teeth any whiter! Same when you’re washing your hands or washing your hair. Turn off the tap whilst you’re doing all the scrubbing. These little habits could end up saving tens of litres every time you do these common tasks.

Top 10 ways to save water at home | News by The Thaiger

• Boiling pasta? Rice? Eggs? Once the left-over water has cooled use it to water your indoor or outdoor plants. Just make sure the water has cooled first!

• Washing the car at a car wash is more efficient than doing it yourself at home. Car wash businesses recycle a lot of their water. Even better, drive around with a dirty car now and then – it’s not hurting you or the car and will save water by delaying your car wash.

Top 10 ways to save water at home | News by The Thaiger

• Lawns use lots of water and daily watering during the hot season can soak up hundreds of litres of valuable. Letting your lawn go brown, be assured it will come back in the wet season. And long-term, landscape accordingly with water wise ground covers, succulents, and other plants that thrive in drought conditions. Lawns may be a luxury we can’t afford in these water-conscious times.

• Only run the dishwasher when it’s full. Even better wash the dishes by hand. Dishwashing machines are notable water wasters. Grab you partner or a friend and have a chat or a laugh for the five minutes it will take you to wash the dishes by hand. You could save up to 50-100 litres of water! And fill up the sink once and do all the washing together without leaving the water running all the time.

Top 10 ways to save water at home | News by The Thaiger

• Whilst it hasn’t been a worry in the past, our useable potable water supplies around Thailand are becoming an issue that won’t be fixed immediately. Consider installing a simple rain catchment system. They can be cheap or expensive and should be considered if you’re building a new house as an integral part of the design. Your roof is an amazing water-catcher. Use it.

• Flush the toilet less often and with less water. Most modern toilets have a half-flush option and there are other tricks to reducing the re-fill in your toilet’s cistern – putting a brick into your cistern is one way (gently!).

• Water the plants early in the morning. You’ll need less water, since cooler morning temperatures mean less evaporation. It’s not a great idea to water in the evenings, since this can promote mould growth in the humid Thai weather and hot evenings. And you really don’t need to water the driveway. It’s not growing. No one is going to walk past your house and compliment you on your sparkling clean drive-way.

• The dog WILL survive without being washed every day, or week. Indeed our dogs used to survive perfectly well without being washed at all. If the family pooch does need a wash try and use some of the water you saved from the bucket in the shower and be careful not to leave the hose on whilst rubbing in the shampoo. As for the cat, it is genetically programmed to clean itself better than you could ever hope to. Leave the cat alone – it DOES NOT need to be washed.

Top 10 ways to save water at home | News by The Thaiger

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Phuket

Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu

The Thaiger

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Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Chatchanon Na Thalang

A luxury house, under construction, has been found on the Nark Herd Hills overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu.

The issue came to light after aerial photos of the house went viral in local social media. Yesterday officials paid a visit to the new house.

A man name Taweep Phonputchai from Bangkok, a representative of the land owner, met with officials and presented the land title deed to officers. The land covers an area of about 10 rai.

The land used to be rubber plantation. Officials have checked and found that the land has a legal land tittle deed but are continuing their investigation into the new residence.

Meanwhile, look how low the dam is!

Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Chatchanon Na Thalang

Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger Mystery luxury house found under construction overlooking Bang Wad Dam in Kathu | News by The Thaiger

 

 

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