Many people across Thailand, including celebrities, have desperately turned to social media as they try to find hospital beds for their family and friends with the number of COVID-19 cases rising during the current third wave.
Calls for help have raised concerns that Thailand’s healthcare system is nearing its limit.
Boworn Tapla, a football player for Chiang Mai United, tested positive on April 12 and, while waiting for a hospital bed, he was notified that his wife and his two daughters had also contracted the virus. He called the hospital where he and his family were tested for COVID-19 but was asked to wait due to long queues.
He used his Instagram account to ask for help after his daughter’s cough got worse.
On Friday, four days after they tested positive, his wife and daughters were admitted to the Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health in Bangkok. He was admitted to Navamin 9 Hospital in Nonthaburi Saturday morning after getting help from the management of Chiang Mai United and chairman of Chiang Mai provincial administrative organization.
Boworn Tapla’s claims contradict government announcements that there are enough beds to accommodate COVID-19 patients as cases increase.
Chalerm Harnphanich, president of the Private Hospital Association (PHA), admitted that many COVID-19 patients have to wait for beds because some private hospitals have not been able to make arrangements to receive those who test positive.
He said that some private hospitals do not refer patients to medical facilities outside of their network.
Furthermore, he added that some are even requiring patients to pay for treatment and services even though the government has agreed to pay for COVID-19 medical expenses. Meanwhile, to cope with the increase in cases, the government ordered authorities to provide 25,000 more beds across the country.
Moreover, the Ministry of Public Health is considering allowing patients living alone to self-treat if medical facilities are overrun.
National Health Security Office (NHSO) secretary-general Jadet Thammathat-Aree said that 700 COVID-19 patients were waiting to be admitted to hospitals on Saturday. However, officers from the NHSO and the Department of Medical Services were assigned to follow up on each case daily by phone.
Furthermore, individuals were urged to contact the NHSO hotline number 1330 or the Department of Medical Services number 1668 for assistance.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said authorities have also asked hospitals to connect with hotels to develop “hospitels” or hotels to house patients. The goal is to increase ICU beds to treat those with severe symptoms.
A spokesman for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, stated that the capital still had beds available for COVID-19 patients.
The BMA has a total of 9,183 beds and 4,244 are still available, he said, but admitted that their capacity to send patients to hospitals was limited. Besides, reports indicated that the government had added extra beds to Bang Khun Thian Geriatric Hospital and two field hospitals at Chalerm Phrakiat Bang Bon Stadium and Bangkok Arena.