A disturbing story of a Taiwanese tourist identified as Mr Chen who lost his life after a Bangkok private hospital refused emergency treatment. The incident spotlights the danger for visitors to the Kingdom and calls for the government to expedite long-promised insurance plans contained in the proposed foreign tourism levy.

The tragic death of a Taiwanese tourist who was involved in an accident on Thursday 7th December and who subsequently died after being refused treatment at a private hospital, is being investigated by the Ministry of Public Health. Anxious paramedics rushed the unconscious man for treatment at the hospital. They were turned away by an irritated nursing supervisor as the medical facility feared it may not be reimbursed for his care. The latest tourist tragedy highlights the need for a long-promised plan for automatic insurance coverage for tourists in Thailand.

Members of the Bangkok-based Ruamkatanyu Foundation’s ambulance team as they tended to Taiwanese tourist Mr Chen on Friday, 8th December 2023. Later, the unconscious tourist was refused admission to the Emergency ward at a nearby private hospital.

In another disturbing story for Thailand’s embattled tourism sector, a Taiwanese tourist, identified only as Mr Chen, tragically lost his life after being denied treatment at a private hospital in Bangkok.

The incident has raised ongoing concerns about the treatment of foreign tourists in the country and highlights the need for automatic medical insurance for visitors.

Taiwanese tourist fatally injured while exploring Bangkok on Thursday 7th December. He was only found the next day when friends alerted the police

The incident unfolded on the night of December 7 when Mr. Chen, part of a group of 19 Taiwanese tourists, decided to explore Bangkok alone. The next morning, his absence prompted the group leader to file a complaint with police. Afterwards, police discovered that Mr Chen was involved in a hit-and-run accident.

Chen was found unconscious on the road island in front of Pattanakarn Soi 50, triggering a swift response from the Ruamkatanyu Foundation’s ambulance team.

After performing CPR, they rushed him to a nearby private hospital, situated just 500 metres from the accident site.

However, the situation took a nasty turn when hospital staff, including a nurse supervisor, allegedly refused to treat Mr Chen. Their justification was the absence of relatives, raising concerns about the hospital’s ability to recover medical expenses. Despite pleas from the rescue team, the hospital insisted on transferring Chen to a state-run hospital over 10 kilometres away.

Minister of Public Health Dr Cholnan Srikaew ordered an urgent investigation focusing on the call made by the nursing supervisor at the private hospital

Mr Chen later died from his injuries at the state-run Sirindhorn Hospital despite that facility’s best efforts.

This refusal to provide emergency treatment has sparked outrage and led to a full-scale investigation ordered by Minister of Public Health Dr Cholnan Srikaew. All hospitals in Thailand, both public and private, are obligated to provide emergency healthcare to any person, irrespective of their nationality.

Dr Sura Wisetsak, director-general of the Health Service Support Department, emphasised that any unconscious patient is eligible for treatment under the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients, and the hospital can later seek reimbursement from the government. 

Possible criminal offence committed as all hospitals in Thailand are obliged by law to provide emergency care to all patients be they local or foreigner

‘The hospital will be investigated to determine whether its patient assessment principles follow the government’s Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients Policy,’ disclosed Dr Sura this week to reporters. ‘The assessment of transferring one patient to another hospital is also being included in the investigation.’

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Denying treatment to an emergency patient is a criminal offence and could result in a maximum fine of ฿40,000 and/or a maximum jail term of two years.

The incident has ignited discussions about the need for automatic medical insurance for tourists visiting Thailand. The delay in implementing a foreign tourism levy, which could fund such insurance, has been a point of contention for successive Thai governments.

Too many negative stories emerging relating foreign tourist misfortunes in Thailand which could be eased considerably by the long-awaited tourist levy 

The tragedy adds to the growing number of negative reports on social media regarding the treatment of foreign tourists in Thailand. Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol has called for improved protective measures to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.

The hospital in question now faces intense scrutiny. Its patient assessment principles will be investigated to determine compliance with the government’s Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients Policy. The assessment which took place in transferring the patient to another hospital is the focus of the investigation.

If found culpable, the hospital staff involved could face severe consequences, including legal proceedings. 

Thailand can be dangerous for visitors

The incident is, unfortunately, also a wake-up call for foreign tourists travelling to Thailand. In the absence of long-deferred medical insurance coverage, prospective visitors must plan for how to deal with emergencies.

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In this instance, Thailand’s roads, among the most dangerous in the world, are notoriously treacherous for foreign visitors. There is an urgent need for fallback measures and some planning to ensure safety and well-being in the ‘Land of Smiles.’

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Further reading:

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Thailand could introduce tourist tax or levy next year as expert group begins to examine plans

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