The new law, administered by the National Institute for Emergency Medicine (NIEM), enables all patients who require emergency medical care and assistance to be able to access it wherever they are in the country at whichever hospital – private or state – is closest to them for a period of up to 72 hours.
Medical care is performed “at no cost” up to regular medical capacity and resources available at hospital. The new law sets out a schedule of “standard” fees to be charged for a range of medical services, with the charges for these services to be charged to one of three national healthcare funds (See story here.)
The law stipulates that the UCEP plan covers patients exhibiting signs under six main categories:
- Unconsciousness, patient not breathing
- Suffocation, severe breathing problems
- Passing out, seizures and high fevers
- Severe chest pain
- Loss of limb use, stroke, common seizures
- Other symptoms that risk heart attacks, inability to breathe, and brain damage
However, the law recognises that it is is ultimately down to the doctors in charge to assess each situation independently.
Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, Assistant Hospital Director at Bangkok Hospital Phuket noted, “As for entitlement, people who access the UCEP rights must be a member of one of the three government national healthcare plans: the National Health Security Fund, Social Security Fund or the fund for medical welfare to state officials.
“People are advised to contact 1669 as standard when a medical emergency occurs and the operators and paramedics at the scene, or doctors at the nearest hospital will be able to determine the severity of the problem and make an informed decision whether the patient falls under the UCEP categories or not.
“If they do not, they will be transferred to their registered state hospital if safe and possible to do so,” he said.
“If after the 72 hours, the patient still requires medical assistance, they will be transported to their registered government hospital for further care if safe to do so. Patients will also have the choice to stay at the first hospital at their own expense. In case the patient is cared for and no longer in a critical condition, it is possible for him/her to be referred to another hospital faster than 72 hours,” Mr Bhummikitti explained.
“As the UCEP plan includes private hospitals, Bangkok Hospital Phuket is hopeful that people in Phuket and nearby provinces will have much faster and easier access to key emergency medical assistance without having to travel to a government hospital which sometimes may be further away and risk the life of the patient due to longer travel times.
“Besides, our hospital will always focus on effective and consistent communication with patients and their relatives regarding their rights and every step of treatment for their clear understanding and further arrangements,” he said.
Banyat Kantha, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO), has so far refused to comment to The Phuket News on the UCEP emergency care law.
“This has nothing to do with me. Go ask NIEM,” he said.
Mr Banyat, who as PPHO Chief is the leading Ministry of Health official for the entire island and oversees the administration of all public health facilities in Phuket, including the three government hospitals in Phuket Town, Thalang and Patong.