By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
The activists from various customer protection groups yesterday submitted the petition to Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, who chairs the Central Committee on Prices of goods and services, seeking price controls on medical treatments to deal with overcharging in some private hospitals.
According to the petition, the customer protection groups asked the Central Committee on the Price of Goods and Services to include medical treatment as a controlled service to cap the price of medicine, medical equipment and medical services in every hospital and improve the system to submit complaints about overpriced medical services.
Even though the representative of the Commerce Ministry agreed to forward the petition to related agencies, Supatra Nacapew, the head of Independent Consumer Protection Subcommittee on Food, Drugs, and Other Health Products, said the activists were disappointed by the ministry’s reaction, as it tried to pass on the responsibility to the Public Health Ministry.
“This is the third time that we submitted the petition with the same request – control the price of medical treatment – to the Commerce Ministry, but there is still no progress, even though they are the direct agency with the duty to control the price of goods and services,” Supatra said.
“We insist that medical expense needs to be controlled, because we have received many cases of overpriced medical expenses in private hospitals, which cause severe financial trouble to the patients and their families.”
She warned that if the Commerce Ministry continued to ignore the activists’ demand for 15 days, they would file a complaint against the ministry at the Administrative Court and Ombudsman’s Office for failure to perform its duty.
She revealed that the lack of medical price controls allowed some private hospitals to change the price for medical treatment at their whim and in some cases the price of medicine was more than 400 times the original price, leaving many patients with huge debts.
The deputy permanent secretary at the Commerce Ministry, Wichai Phochanakit, said the ministry had not ignored the problem of overpricing for medical treatment. He said the ministry was currently working with the Public Health Ministry to find measures to control the cost of medical services.
Wichai insisted that the duty to oversee the price of medical treatment lies with the Public Health Ministry, but he promised that the Commerce Ministry would help the Public Health Ministry on related tasks.