Monday, November 18, 2019

Medical procurement delay could cost lives, say advocates

Aug 16. 2017
Thai Kidney Club president Thanapon Dokkaew.
Thai Kidney Club president Thanapon Dokkaew.
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By CHULARAT SAENGPASSA
THE NATION

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PATIENT HEALTH advocates are on the verge of losing their patience as authorities remain undecided on how they will procure medical supplies for the universal healthcare scheme in the new fiscal year, which will start on October 1.

“Without supplies for peritoneal dialyses, patients in the terminal stage of chronic kidney failure will have lung problems. They may die,” Thai Kidney Club president Thanapon Dokkaew said yesterday.

He said about 25,000 patients received peritoneal dialysis under the universal healthcare scheme.

Covering nearly 50 million people, the scheme has offered most kinds of medical services for free. The National Health Security Office (NHSO), which long managed the scheme, had arranged the central procurement of some medical supplies that are best bought in bulk, such as orphan drugs, antiretroviral drugs, vaccines and dialysis drugs. But this year, it was told it did not have the legal power to handle the procurement in the wake of warnings from the Office of the Auditor-General. 

No clear answer

“Who will take responsibility if patients die because of the shortage of medical supplies?” Thanapon asked yesterday.

The Thailand Network of People living with HIV/AIDS president Anan Muangmoolchai said about 300,000 people had received anti-retroviral drugs from the scheme. “If they don’t take drugs on a continual basis, they may develop drug resistance and then have to switch to more expensive drugs,” he said. 

Thanapon and Anan spoke as they joined demands by the People’s Health Systems Movement (PHSM) for clear answers from authorities. 

PHSM members staged a press conference in front of Government House yesterday after their scheduled meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who oversees legal affairs, was cancelled at the last minute. 

Wissanu cancelled the meeting on the grounds that the NHSP and the Public Health Ministry had already been instructed to explore solutions during the Tuesday’s meeting. 

Aids Access Foundation director Nimit Thien-udom said normally the procurement plan had to be prepared by this point in the year. 

“Some tension has already been felt at various hospitals. 

“Those in charge of medical supplies are trying to stock more items out of concern that when the new fiscal year starts, some supplies may not be available in time,” Nimit said. 

He said if relevant authorities did not provide a clear answer, the PHSM and its allies would rally in larger numbers in front of Government House next week. 

“That’s because if there is no clear answer by next week, calamities will occur,” Nimit said. 

Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn separately sought to downplay such concerns. 

“The Public Health Ministry and the NHSO will jointly set up a committee to buy orphan drugs and antidotes,” he said. 

However, he did not clearly specify whether the committee would be able to handle other medical supplies that the NHSO formerly procured for the universal scheme. 

Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr Sopon Mekthon said the committee might assign the Rajavithi Hospital to make the actual procurements because the hospital was permitted to do so by law.

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