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in-focus

Supporters fear for future of ThaiHealth


New law targets mission, budget limits.

A PUBLIC HEARING about changes in the law governing the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) ended yesterday with strong criticism of the new Thai Health Promotion Fund Bill.
Critics said the bill threatened to weaken ThaiHealth, which had performed well to promote people’s health. 
Thicha Na Nakorn, head of the Ban Kanchanapisek centre for juvenile offenders, told the hearing that the ongoing process to change the law governing the foundation had been wrongfully conducted from the very beginning. 
“This process starts from the belief that ThaiHealth has had transparency problems and has not been cost effective,” Thicha said. “But the results of the probe by the Office of the Auditor-General and the committee investigating government spending have found otherwise.” 
She said she saw no reason to support the process, and walked out of the public hearing. 
Family Network Foundation secretary Wanchai Boonpracha said he was worried about the hearing. “I feel like this is just a ritual,” he said. 
Hearings on the planned amendment to the law that has governed ThaiHealth since 2001 were held on March 31 and yesterday. 
Efforts to make amendments began after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the Justice Ministry, the Public Health Ministry and the Finance Ministry to review ThaiHealth’s operations. 
The three ministries suggested that the law governing ThaiHealth could be improved upon for greater transparency. 
Several ThaiHealth executives were found to have sat on the boards of the many foundations that received financial support from ThaiHealth. There were also questions why ThaiHealth had financially sponsored activities that did not seem to be directly related to its mission. 
Dr Orapan Methadilokkul, from the Medical Council, spoke in support of the bill amendment at the hearing last Friday. 
The bill has two major points. First, it specifies a broader and clearer definition of “health promotion”, defined as any action done to promote the physical, emotional and social health of people so they can enjoy a long and quality life. 
Second, there is a proposed limit on ThaiHealth’s budget to no more than Bt4 billion a year, giving the finance minister the right to adjust the ceiling every three years. ThaiHealth’s budget comes from so-called “sin taxes”. 
The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a statement on Friday in support of ThaiHealth, describing it as a global leader in the field of health promotion. 
The statement, signed by WHO representative to Thailand Dr Daniel Kertesz, was released after he was barred from airing his opinions at the hearing. 
Paisarn Limsathit, an academic at Thammasat University’s Health Law and Ethics Centre, said the hearing might not comply with the approved charter draft. 
As the hearing closed yesterday, concerns remained as to whether the Health Promotion Fund Bill would become law. 

Published : April 03, 2017

By : THE NATION