MOPH clarifies medical staff shortages and overwork in Thai healthcare system

Taweesin Visanuyothin, Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), addressed the issue of medical staff workload in response to Napasorn "Puimek" Weerayuttvilai, an actress and doctor, who revealed that she resigned from her medical position due to her hospital workload.

Taweesin stated that Thailand has a total of around 50,000-60,000 doctors with 24,649 doctors (approximately 48%) under the supervision of the MOPH. However, these doctors are responsible for the healthcare of 45 million people (over 70% of the population) in the universal health coverage scheme. This results in approximately 1 doctor for every 2,000 people, while international standards suggest that there should be 3 doctors for every 1,000 people. 

Thaweesin said that apart from the MOPH, other entities such as the Ministry of Defence and 23 university medical faculties also require personnel which must be allocated from these limited personnel resources. 

In 2013 there were 2,759 medical graduates who had to be divided between becoming medical lecturers in pre-clinical programmes and being assigned to 6 regional medical faculties. The Ministry required 2,161 doctors but received only 1,960. 

Medical education requires 6 years of study with an additional 1-year internship mandated by the Medical Council to enhance the skills of newly graduated doctors. Medical students under the MOPH are also required to teach. While the Council aims to enhance skills, the government expects doctors to start working immediately. This leads to doctors having to perform 2-3 additional roles while working.

The universal health coverage scheme in Thailand differs from other countries in that patients can seek services without prior appointment. 

According to a survey conducted by the MOPH last November, doctors in some state hospitals work more than 60 hours, which exceeds the global standard of less than 40 working hours.

Taweesin stated that doctors’ welfare has been improved. The budget remaining from the COVID-19 period has been allocated to improving housing facilities. However, workload remains a challenge due to the limited number of doctors. 


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