Thai study group to get health insights

A GROUP of 21 Thai academics, senior health officials and doctors has been on a study tour of the Tamworth and Armidale region this week to see how the healthcare system works in rural Australia.

Representatives of Thailand’s National Health Security Office, Ministry of Public Health, Ramathibodi Hospital (part of the Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine) and the Royal College of Family Physicians of Thailand have been in the district to speak with local doctors and healthcare staff, with the aim of improving Thailand’s health system.

They arrived in Tamworth on Sunday and will leave for Armidale today.

During the tour they visited Tamworth hospital, including its University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, the New England Medicare Local, Peel Health Care, rural medical school and Manilla hospital.

University of Canberra Faculty of Health adjunct associate professor Phudit Tejativaddhana said Thailand was trying to implement a “health gatekeeper” style of system, similar to Australia’s, but needed more general practitioners in order to do so.

“Some universities in the north and north-east of Thailand have joined together for a rural GP training project, which is supported by the royal family’s funding and led by Professor Boonchob Pongpanich,” associate professor Tejativaddhana said.

“The aim of us coming here is to get all of the executives of this project and the Faculty of Medicine, and the project’s GP trainees, to have experience in the primary healthcare system in Australia, and how you train and accredit GPs and ensure the quality of primary healthcare, especially in rural areas.

“We would like to improve the quality of our GP training in our country.”

National Health Security Office deputy secretary-general Weerawat Phancrut said Thailand had three times the population of Australia but only one-tenth of the healthcare budget.

“What we are trying to do is learn from the Australian experience ... and apply some aspects into the Thai health-care system ... in order to make it more effective and efficient, to provide better care for the people,” Mr Phancrut said.

He said the inclusion of allied health workers and paramedics, who aren’t government officers, in the Australian system was an interesting concept to the Thai visitors.

“I hope in the near future we can have some exchange students and training between Thai and Australian university training centres,” he said.

The study tour was organised by the University of New England, with support from the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, Hunter New England Health and New England Medicare Local.

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