19 May 2024

The Budget Bureau and the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) came under attack from a government MP, during the budget debate in the Thai parliament today (Monday), for slashing the funding of the Ministry of Public Health.

Bhumjaithai MP for Uthai Thani province, Chada Thaiseth, said that he felt the cut in the health budget, while the country is facing the spreading COVID-19 pandemic, amounts to a slap in the face to the people, despite the fact that the Public Health Ministry has been at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic since the first case early last year.

He challenged officials of the Budget Bureau and the NESDC to visit state hospitals, to see with their own eyes how hard medical personnel are working to treat the people infected with COVID-19, while dealing with the shortage of medical equipment.

More importantly, Chada claimed that the risk allowances, amounting to an estimated six billion baht, for doctors and nurses, as well as public health volunteers who have been working on the frontline, have not been paid since the initial outbreak early last year.

Setting up field hospitals or isolating those infected with the disease in hotels needs financial support and several provincial administrations had to use their emergency budgets to fund them, said the MP, as he accused the NESDC for not understanding its own role and duty.

The NESDC, he said, should confine itself to analyzing budgets, not slashing them, adding that the budget of every department in the Public Health Ministry has been cut, including that for the procurement of X-ray machines, negative pressure rooms and other necessary devices for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, including 18 million baht for vaccines.

Chada said that, although some of the health budgets have been incorporated in the Central Fund, in practice, making use of such budgets is rather more complicated than assigning the money to the Ministry of Public Health.

He also said that the Budget Bureau might have thought that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had fallen out with Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, also leader of the Bhumjaithai party, and decided to slash the health budget, adding that it would be better if his party leader quit the coalition government.