By The Nation
The department, however, has no plans to force private hospitals to inform their patients of this right through announcements in their facilities.
“Patients have long had the right to buy medicines outside hospitals,” HSSD director-general Dr Nattawuth Prasertsiripong said yesterday.
He was speaking publicly in order to downplay speculation that the latest resolution from the Medical Facilities Committee (MFC) could make it impossible for patients to produce a prescription and get their needed medicine from drug stores.
Last Thursday, MFC ruled that medicines be treated as among the medical services that doctors must take responsibility for.
While MFC has recognised that patients have the right to buy medicines from outside hospitals, it has also absolved private hospitals of having to put up on-site announcements informing their patients of this right.
Nattawuth said his department would forward the resolution to a subcommittee established under the Committee on Product and Service Prices with the mission to prepare measures related to price control over medicines and medical-services.
The committee has assigned relevant organisations to gather opinions on price-control measures. Among these organisations are the HSSD, the National Institute for Emergency Medicine and Thai General Insurance Association.
“Between 60 and 70 per cent of patients at private hospitals are health-insurance policyholders,” Nattawuth said.
According to him, just two per cent of complaints about private hospitals that the HSSD had received last year were about high prices.
Many non-governmental organisations have long complained about perceived overcharging by private hospitals. In one extreme case, a medical bill exceeded Bt23 million.
“There are many complaints about medical-service fees. In one extreme case, the bill exceeded Bt23 million. A surgeon, for example, charges about Bt170,000 per operation,” Foundation for Consumers secretary-general Saree Ongsomwang said recently.
Nattawuth said the HSSD, for its part, was responsible for ensuring that medical facilities provided a good standard of services.