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Phuket Opinion: Bitter pill

PHUKET: The move to have all private hospitals by law publicly list what medications they provide – and what prices they charge for them – in many areas of the country, and especially Bangkok, could be a game changer. But in Phuket, that great change does not seem likely.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 16 June 2019, 09:00AM

The notice issued by the Department of Internal Trade on June 5 made plain the new legal requirements. Image: DI

The notice issued by the Department of Internal Trade on June 5 made plain the new legal requirements. Image: DI

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha wasted no time in pledging his support for the resolution by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Assembly on May 28, which called for “public sharing of information on actual prices paid by governments and other buyers for health products, and greater transparency on pharmaceutical patents, clinical trial results and other determinants of pricing along the value chain from laboratory to patient.”

The very next day (May 29) the necessary changes to the law were drafted, and within 48 hours of the resolution, on May 30, 353 private hospitals throughout the country were informed that they were now required to display the prices of 3,000 drugs, as well as the fees for medical supplies and services, so that consumers can make better-informed decisions prior to receiving treatments.

Last Sunday (June 9) the national propaganda machine made it clear via all modern media channels that this was now required, while pointing out that the government recognised studies that had shown that hospitals had charged anywhere from 300% up to a stupendous 16,000% in marked up prices – the latter being such an extravagant profit margin it would be tantamount to charging more than B50,000 for a bottle of paracetamol.

The complaints received by The Phuket News over the years about people being overcharged for basic medical services have often included the outrageous prices of basic medicines, including the seemingly mandatory bag of paracetamol on discharge from hospital. Yet the big bills are hidden in the more complex treatments, requiring more specialised medications.

The new law aims to make it more competitive between hospitals by allowing patients the freedom to make their decisions about where to obtain the medicine they will direly need, but in Phuket where are people to go? The hospital options remain the same: either one of the three government hospitals (Vachira, Patong and Thalang), the Phuket Provincial Hospital (also commonly called the OrBorJor Hospital), Mission Hospital or one of three remaining hospitals that are all owned by the same company.

The prices between the three main private hospital entities already differentiate the market to the point that patient load and services provided are the more determining factors in which hospital a Phuket resident is likely to prefer. The prices are just those that you’re stuck with in your choice of which hospital to use.

There is no indication that will change, with or without the pricing public disclosure law.

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Kurt | 17 June 2019 - 16:26:10

We can ask General Pom Prawit to which hospital in Switserland he went for heart surgery and go goes there every 6 months for health check. Seems he not feels comfortable with any thai hospital at all. Not even for a health check up.

Christy Sweet | 17 June 2019 - 12:12:24

BKK-Phuket hospital is the absolute worst for price gouging patients. Never, ever go there if it can be helped. I've also seen a cafeteria worker using the same cloth to wipe tables as dry dishes, so hygiene and sanitation training is lacking- as also evidenced by carpet in public areas. Disgusting.

CaptainJack69 | 16 June 2019 - 13:56:22

Yeah, Bangkok Phuket has been exorbitant for years, and since Silirot was taken over by them its prices have sky-rocketed too. Smacks of a monopoly doesn't it?

Also they should explain what drugs your being sold BEFORE they try and get you to pay for them. Me, I'll go through the pile and give back all the junk I know I can get at the pharmacy round the corner for half the price.

SEC2 | 16 June 2019 - 13:37:22

Bangkok Hospital tried to charge me 2,700 baht for a 30 day supply of meds. They finally gave me the prescription, took it to Super Cheap.  800 baht. Then two months ago I had surgery at BH. I gave them a very substantial deposit.   After many emails and a visit to the hospital the invoices do not match the deposit and I can't get a refund. I hope the new laws help, but I'm not optimistic....

Shwe | 16 June 2019 - 13:07:45

now I only go the Bumrungrad, hospitals in Phuket cannot  be trusted, patients are just cash cows to them.

Shwe | 16 June 2019 - 12:55:52

After being given a false diagnosis for recurrent cancer based on suspect blood results, I had CT scan and Pet scan, which be both of which could not determine if cancer had returned, but was told to have chemo and radiation treatment, at an estimated cost of over 1MB, I went to Bumrungrad for a second opinion, they determined no cancer present, that hospital in Phuket was just wanted more money  

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