The Thai government's attempt to introduce a bill that would strengthen the rights of medical malpractice victims has stalled, as doctors complain that the law would be unfair to them.
A group representing doctors and other medical workers complained Tuesday that a special government committee to study the issue had a disproportionate amount of backers of the proposed bill. A group of state hospital doctors has already boycotted the committee's first meeting.
An open letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from the Federation of Healthcare Workforce of Thailand, which represents doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists and others in the field, asked for a "national assembly" on the matter that is "truly representative of all stakeholders."
Medical practitioners fear the bill would give victims the rights to sue them even after receiving compensation and that the proposed mandatory compensation fund would drain hospitals of valuable resources.
Advocates of the bill say patients seeking compensation for malpractice currently face an arduous process which the bill would shorten, enabling victims to get compensation without going to court.
"Before the government does anything, it must make sure that all citizens' voices are heard," said the health care federation's president, Churdchoo Ariyasriwatana. "It's vital to have input from as many people as possible."
"A big state hospital would have to foot an additional bill of 10 million baht (about $313,000) a year contributing to the fund," said Churdchoo, a pediatrician with a government children's hospital. "If the medical workers find themselves stretched and make mistakes, who would protect them?"
"It's important that all sides come to a conclusion," Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanavisit said Monday. "The ministry will be the bridge, facilitating meetings and discussions, for all sides."
Advocates of the bill are not pleased with the go-slow approach.
"There's a vacuum now that all talks have stopped," said Preeyanan Lorsermvattana, who heads the Thai Medical Error Network and has worked for nearly two decades to help victims of malpractice. "I hope the government can withstand pressure from the doctors."