Ministry Eyes Emergency Health Program for Foreign Travellers

In Thailand, accidents on the road and in the water are the primary sources of injury for international travellers, often due to certain rental car agencies and tourists choosing to ignore safety regulations.

Officials from the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the National Institute for Emergency Medicine are set to explore the idea of expanding the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) program to include international visitors.

Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol mentioned that the ministry has discussed extending the UCEP program with the Public Health Ministry and is awaiting detailed plans.

This initiative is part of the government’s broader strategy to enhance Thailand’s status as a leading destination for tourists next year.

The Minister emphasized the importance of including international tourists in the emergency medical services provided at hospitals nationwide.

A situation involving a Taiwanese tourist who was gravely injured in a vehicular accident last December and subsequently turned away by a private hospital drew significant media attention.

This year, up to March 31, there have been 128 tourists injured while in Thailand, including 64 deaths.

Of these, road accidents were responsible for 82 injuries, as reported by the tourism permanent secretary’s office.

Water-related incidents, mostly during leisure activities, led to the highest number of deaths at 18, followed by 15 from road accidents, 12 from personal health issues, and two suicides.

In 2023, reports indicated that 400 tourists were injured, and there were 185 fatalities.

Ms. Sudawan pointed out that incorporating international tourists into the UCEP scheme would enhance their safety, complementing an existing assistance program for injuries or fatalities among tourists.

This existing assistance program offers up to 1 million baht for death and 500,000 baht for injuries, applicable from January 1 to August 31.

The government has set aside 50 million baht for this support program to operate for eight months during the current fiscal year.

She stated that the ministry intends to review the compensation amounts during this trial period before making recommendations on the program’s extension from September.

By March, about 2 million baht had been disbursed to tourists eligible for compensation under the scheme.

An anonymous official from the Tourism and Sports Ministry mentioned that some issues related to injuries involve other governmental departments.

The official suggested that the Commerce Ministry regulate car and motorcycle rental businesses to ensure compliance with legal requirements, such as verifying driving licenses before rentals and offering insurance to tourists.

The official also noted that some tourists disregard safety measures, especially failing to wear helmets while riding motorbikes.

The ministry has received safety concerns from several countries, including Saudi Arabia, which has inquired about the high incidence of motorbike accidents among its citizens visiting Phuket and Pattaya, predominantly among those aged 20 to 35.