By THE NATION
Deputy NHSO secretary-general Dr Jadet Thammathat-Aree said that currently the NHSO is using its Bt1.02-billion National Health Security Fund, also known as the state welfare card fund, to provide medical care to state welfare card holders nationwide.
“The fund might not be enough during the pandemic situation where demand for medical care has risen sharply,” he said. “Therefore, the government has supported the office with an additional Bt3.26 billion, which came from the central budget of fiscal 2020.”
Jadet further explained that besides the rising cost of testing and treating for Covid-19, the lockdown measures have resulted in increasing expenses such as from mailing medications to patients due to curfew and travel limitation, rising costs of imported drugs and the procurement of additional protective gears for medical staff in public hospitals.
“We estimate that by the end of 2020, approximately 800,000 to one million people who lost their jobs due to Covid-19 situation will switch from the social security scheme to the state welfare scheme,” said Jadet. “Therefore, the NHSO has projected the budget requirement for fiscal 2021 at Bt80 billion to cope with the rising demand for medical care, increasing costs of medical supplies, and increased number of state welfare card holders.”
Jadet added that a part of the budget will also be used to promote new services, such as telehealth, which aims to provide medical care to people in remote areas, eliminating the need to come down to the hospital thus reducing crowdedness and the possibility of communicable diseases spreading.
Currently NHSO has telehealth programmes at selected hospitals such as Nakhon Pathom, Chonburi and Rayong where medical advice was provided via telephone, online or mail and patients can bring the prescription to buy drugs at their local pharmacy instead of coming to the hospital.
“The service can reduce the trips to hospitals by over 150 million visits per year,” he said. “In the future, we are planning to add more than 1,000 local drugstores to the scheme to expand the scope of services to wider areas.”