The Public Health Ministry of Thailand plans to set up 21 community medical centres in 20 provinces. This is in order to relieve the heavy workload of provincial hospitals run by the state, many of which are overflowing with patients.
The project estimated to cost 188-million-baht, is also intended to bring improvements to medical services in remote villages.
Public health permanent secretary Prat Boonyavongvirot has said that 13 centres will be built in the Northeast, three in the North, two in the central provinces, two in the South and one in the western region.
Mongkol na Songkhla the Public Health Minister, attended a special meet yesterday to solicit donations. This would be towards the construction of the first centre, in Songkhla's Hat Yai district.
The centre, which will need an investment of around seven million baht, will be responsible for providing medical care to residents of three tambons in the district, under the supervision of the state-run Hat Yai general hospital.
Other centres are estimated to cost around six million baht each. Some existing public health stations will also be upgraded to health centre standard.
Accordingly, doctors and nurses will be stationed at the centres around the clock, and the places will also have their own mobile x-ray units and electrocardiogram machines. Also available at the centres will be ambulances to transport severely ill patients to hospitals and also to bring them back to continue their treatment at the community centres.
Saying that the project was aimed at creating better facilities so people in rural areas could have easier access to basic medical care, Dr. Mongkol was quoted:
"We've found that 50% of the patients visiting hospitals these days are just victims of common ailments and have no need to meet specialists.
"Most people prefer a hospital visit even for treatment of non-severe illnesses and minor discomfort. Only 8% go to clinics and another 8% to chemists to buy over-the-counter medication. Just 2% take the trouble of visiting local public health stations."
The situation clearly indicates that state hospitals were unnecessarily overflowing with patients in need of only basic treatment.
Statistics show that most of the government health resources and budgets are being used for treating outpatients in state-run hospitals.
Dr. Mongkol has warned that government hospitals could get even more crowded in future if no "front-line" outlets are created now to filter through medical care seekers.