Thailand has started universal healthcare in an attempt to provide equal health services to all citizens. This however has been met with some criticism as suddenly the medical system is being overwhelmed with more patients than it can manage, and some barriers to narrowing the divide between rich and poor medical access still remain. At the end of it all however, Noviscape suggest this will result in increasing conflict between patients and physicians.
As a result Noviscape expects that “there will be more lawsuits against doctors. Although there is now more protection of patient rights, the people who can sue and get protection are still the urban rich. The rural and urban poor remain largely unprotected and vulnerable to medical malpractice. Physicians currently bear a huge burden by having to take care of a large number of patients with limited time. Some unintentional errors can result and turn into big problems. The ongoing conflicts between patients and physicians are becoming more serious, even though public policies have been designed in an attempt to enhance access to health services by the poor. This is due to the fact that each government has overemphasized a populist approach while neglecting the reality of finite resources.
“Another recent event that occurred, very clearly reflecting such a problem, was the heated debate on the drafted Protection of Damaged Users of Health Services Act (B.E.) between the service providers, e.g. doctors, versus the service users and other supporters of the law, e.g. non-governmental organizations on human rights.”
Implications from Noviscape:
“On the user side, they lauded the prospect that the law [B.E.] would enhance the quality of health services provided by the hospitals and doctors, as they would have to be certain that their services were cautiously delivered to the patients. To the contrary, the service providers were skeptical about whether the law would really solve the problems. Unnecessary expenses would be increasingly incurred by hospitals to compensate for their alleged wrongdoing, as the law would stipulate that money be paid to plaintiffs immediately once lawsuits take effect. This could cause some of them to go bankrupt and become even more incapable of delivering the services. The law could also further demoralize physicians, as they would refuse to accept more difficult cases to care for.
All these issues are going to culminate in lower quality healthcare to Thailand’s poor as hospitals will become more apprehensive in servicing them, and as a result will transfer them around to different hospitals delaying the health services process and increasing costs.
Noviscape September 2011 pgs. 3-4