Thailand's rural doctors plan leave to protest P4P scheme

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Doctors at rural hospitals in Thailand will go on leave as part of civil disobedience action against the Public Health Ministry's new Pay-for-Performance (P4P) scheme for medical workers after both sides argued via the media over the past week, Dr Arak Wongworachart, a representative of the Rural Doctors Society (RDS) said yesterday.

Today, the cabinet meeting in Chachoengsao province will discuss the P4P scheme and it is expected to approve it, with the scheme taking effect tomorrow.

He said some doctors from rural hospitals in the four southern provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla would be the first group to officially request the ministry on Wednesday to provide 30-40 doctors to work in their place as they wanted to take leave during the Songkran holidays.

The P4P scheme could cause more doctors to quit their jobs at rural hospitals or move to other hospitals, as the current special allowance paid to doctors at rural hospitals would be cut, he said.

Arak said the leave move was aimed to respond to the ministry's P4P scheme.

"Moreover, this week we will submit a complaint to the human rights committee of the Senate, requesting them to look into the issue. Also, we will start seeking a petition to impeach the Public Health Minister after the P4P takes effect," he said.

Arak added that after the Songkran holidays, representatives of all rural hospitals, who come from more than 730 hospitals, would hold a meeting to discuss the issue.

The RDS issued a statement yesterday to explain their move against the new P4P scheme for medical workers.

The statement said rural doctors do not oppose other hospitals that prefer the P4P scheme because they have different contexts compared to rural hospitals. The RDS said it respected their decision. But it insists that doctors prefer the current special allowance as is. The allowance has drawn doctors, dentists and other medical workers to work for rural hospitals happily and take care of people's health in remote areas. But, any hospitals desiring to implement the P4P scheme can top-up pay for medical workers with heavy workload, while they are still given the special allowance.

It said the Public Health Ministry should implement two different pay systems to manage its hospitals with different contexts. RDS said it wants top officials in the ministry to stop creating misunderstandings between medical workers at different groups of hospitals, claiming that RDS wants to get rid of the P4P scheme at all hospitals. The RDS said, in fact, it demanded the P4P scheme not be implemented only in rural hospitals.

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