More than half of the 912 patients from April 1 to April 9 who sought medical attention under the government’s free care for 72 hours were deemed “unqualified”.

Earlier this year, the Public Health Ministry vowed to ensure that all emergency patients would receive free medical services within 72 hours of developing life-threatening symptoms, from April 1 onwards.

But 527 of 912 people whose families believed they were in life-or-death situations were declared ineligible for free medical treatment.

According to hospital staff, conditions were not life-threatening, even without immediate help. Their families were told there was still time to transfer them to other hospitals, particularly those where they would have the right to free medical services.

“I was at a loss when hospital staff told me that my husband could not receive free emergency medical services,” Achara Saravari said yesterday.

Her 47-year-old husband Natree Saravari, secretary-general of the Issarachon Foundation that protects homeless people, was found unconscious in the bathroom of their Bangkok home on Sunday.

She took him straight to Synphaet Hospital, where she initially asked for free treatment under an accident case and then the 72 hours of free emergency treatment. But both requests were rejected.

“I was told he had not sustained head injuries, so his case did not qualify as an accident. As for free emergency treatment, his case did not qualify either. But doctors also told me that his condition was serious and that he might die without surgery,” Achara said. She said the hospital demanded Bt450,000 for the treatment, more than the family’s savings.

“In the end, I had to turn to social media to raise the funds,” she said.

After Natee’s case drew widespread public attention, the National Institute of Emergency Medicine (NIEM), the Health Service Support Department and Synphaet Hospital officials met for discussions. They eventually agreed to count Natee as an emergency patient and that his surgery, as well as other medical services he had already received at Synphaet, would be free.

Yesterday, Natee’s condition had improved. He was conscious and could move his arms. He will be transferred to another hospital where he is entitled to receive free treatment via the universal coverage healthcare scheme.

NIEM deputy secretary-general Dr Phumin Silaphan said the Synphaet Hospital had declared Natee as unqualified at first because it had not fully understood the process.

“The policy has just been introduced,” Phumin explained.

He vowed to increase hospitals’ understanding of the process, which offered a pre-authorisation function to make things clearer.

NIEM secretary-general Atchariya Pangma separately advised people to contact the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) if they thought they needed free treatment related to medical emergencies.

“We will try to increase public understanding as to what defines medical emergencies,” he said.

Atchariya said emergency patients must have serious health conditions such as sudden and serious chest pains and persistent seizures to qualify for the free emergency treatment.

He said people could contact UCEP by phone on 02- 872- 1669 or email

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a doctor said families and doctors usually had different things in mind when they thought of “serious medical emergency cases”.

Achara said had her husband’s case not made the news, she might have had to shoulder the huge medical expenses herself.

Surprise, surprise ! Shock, horror ! A patient’s condition did not qualify as serious but doctors said that without surgery he could die !!!!??? This needs sorting quickly before somebody actually dies due to “misunderstanding” of the rules !

(Source:The Nation, Thailand)


By Juninho