Call for free infertility treatment as birth rate plunges in Thailand
Professor Dr Kamthorn Pruksananonda, chairman of a reproductive medicine panel at Royal Obstetrics and Gynecologists of Thailand, warned that this drop in the birth rate could trigger long-term economic and social problems, particularly with regard to greater dependence on migrant workers.
He said national health care schemes do not yet cover fertility treatments because infertility is not considered a disease. He added that currently only private hospitals offer treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) for women who have difficulty getting pregnant. However, he said, not everyone can afford it as even basic IVF treatment can cost up to 100,000 baht.
“Now that the World Health Organization has classified infertility as a disease, public hospitals should start providing treatment at affordable prices,” he said.
Kamthorn said the Royal Obstetrics and Gynecologists of Thailand along with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Health Services Support have drawn up guidelines to help people access infertility treatment. However, this process will take more than a year, as other related agencies such as the National Health Security Bureau, Social Security Bureau, and Comptroller General’s Department also need to draft their guidelines.
“Universal health care coverage should first begin to provide fertility treatments before being extended to social security and welfare schemes for civil servants,” he said. “The initial treatment is not expensive, because the first step is a correct diagnosis”.