Health minister appoints his chief advisor to head donation probe

Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul poses during an interview with Agence France-Presse in Bangkok on April 3, 2019. – A Thai party that wants to let households grow marijuana is in demand after a hard-fought election, and its leader said April 3 that their policies must be backed by groups looking for support in coalitions. (Photo by Romeo GACAD / AFP) / TO GO WITH STORY Thailand-politics-vote-marijuana-offbeat

Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul’s chief advisor, M.L. Somchai Chakrabhand, has been appointed to head a committee investigating allegations that 186 hospitals under the Ministry’s supervision have accepted donations from pharmaceutical companies.

 

The Minister said Thursday that the probe team will report directly to him.

Mr. Anutin said that he is handling the case personally because the hospitals implicated in the donation scandal represent 20% of the hospitals under the Ministry’s supervision.

He warned, however, that whistle-blowers may be held accountable if it is proven that their allegations are groundless.

 

The allegations concern demands by hospital staff for donations, or kickbacks, worth 5% of the value of the products that a hospital buys from drug companies. It is reported that the amounts go to the welfare fund of each hospital, to cover expenses which are beyond budgetary limits.

The scandal was exposed after Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Sukhum Kanchanapimai ordered the abrupt transfer of Dr. Charnchai Chanworachaikul, director of Khon Kaen provincial hospital, to assist with work at the Ministry over a yet to be proven allegation that his hospital has accepted donations from drug companies.

 

Dr. Charnchai said that, in November 2018, he ordered his hospital to stop accepting donations from drug firms, after Public Health Ministry instructed all its hospitals not to.

Instead, he said the hospital turned to public donations to supplement the hospital’s costs.

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