(C)Human Rights Watch
Overall, Thailand had 2.04 health professionals working in OPS-affiliated public facilities per 1,000 population on average with a range between 0.83 and 3.98. This figure could be broken down into 0.27 for doctors, 1.56 for nurses, 0.08 for dentists, and 0.12 for pharmacists. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), At least 102 healthcare workers in Thailand have been infected with Covid-19, sending their hospitals into partial lockdown and suspending most services for up to 14 days. With grim statistics like these, it is clear bolder steps are urgently needed to protect medical personnel during the outbreak.
After 14 weeks since Thailand recorded its first Covid-19 case, the country recorded approximately 2,643 infections with 43 deaths. The Human Rights activists called on Thai government to ensure medical and healthcare staff adequate personal protection. “Nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel are struggling with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is essential to keep them safe. Because new supplies haven’t arrived on time, PPE is rationed in many hospitals, requiring healthcare providers to work with “do it yourself” protection gear they procure or make themselves”. HRW denounced, stressing that the difficulty caused by a global shortage of PPE has been exacerbated by black-market profiteering, hoarding, and corruption, including by Thai officials.
Healthcare workers in Thailand are working exhausting schedules and facing risks of infection, while their voices and concerns have been suppressed by the authorities. Whistle-blowers in Thailand’s public health sector and online journalists in fact face retaliatory “anti-fake news” lawsuits and intimidations after they either criticized the government’s response to the outbreak or reported essential medical supplies were not sufficiently available.
As for China, Thai officials have also threatened some medical personnel with disciplinary actions, including dismissal or revocation of their licenses in the case of self-employed workers, for speaking out about the serious shortage of essential supplies in hospitals. “If hospital staff are getting sick and are unable to work – HRW said – efforts to curb the Covid-19 pandemic will be severely undermined”, asking the Thai Government to ensure that healthcare workers who are risking their lives to treat patients are properly equipped to safely carry out their duties.