The Thai-Burmese frontier healthcare services face a financial crisis as a result of the current political turmoil in Myanmar. It has been reported that Umphang Hospital, situated in Thailand’s Tak province, has been hit by a considerable deficit of 40 million baht. The hospital has been forced to turn to the Ministry of Public Health for assistance.
Umphang Hospital has become the primary medical refuge for a significant number of migrants fleeing the political unrest in Myanmar’s ethnic states. The unexpected surge in patients has resulted in a drastic increase in the hospital’s operating costs.
To navigate the crisis, the Ministry of Public Health dispatched an emergency fund of 20 million baht in July as an immediate interim step. Dr Opas Kankawinpong, the Ministry’s permanent secretary, confirmed the recent funding and emphasised the rise in operational costs, owing to the migrant influx.
“I have assigned officials to investigate whether local hospitals along the Thai-Burmese border are facing the same situation as Umphang Hospital and for them to draw up solutions.”
He further detailed that the Umphang Hospital is part of the “One Province One Hospital” scheme. Under this system, in each health district medical staff, budgets, and resources are shared among all the hospitals to mutually support each other, reported Bangkok Post.
On August 9, Dr Worawit Tantiwattanasap, Umphang Hospital’s director, acknowledged the alarming financial deficits had swelled to over 40 million baht. This is the most severe budget crisis the hospital has faced in the last 30 years.
Crucially, about 25% of migrant inpatients and 50% of migrant outpatients were reportedly unable to pay for their medical treatments. Most were victims of clashes breaking out in Myanmar’s Kawkareik border town, as well as a widespread malaria flare-up. Worawit also pointed out another side effect of life in political unrest.
“We’ve also seen an increase in the number of migrants coming to the Tak province to deliver their babies.”
Umphang Hospital has implemented a community isolation strategy in Myanmar in an attempt to control the migration wave towards Thailand. Nonetheless, the cost of operating this programme has not been reimbursed by the Public Health Ministry, further exacerbating the hospital’s budget deficit.
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