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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Volunteers Oppose Proposed Age Limit in Health Ministry Bill

Village health volunteers nationwide are strongly opposing a new age limit proposed in a Public Health Ministry-sponsored bill that would mandate their retirement at 70 years old. The bill, which is open for online public hearing until Thursday, July 11, seeks to impose an age cap on these volunteers, replacing their current lifelong service term.

In response, volunteers in Chiang Mai plan to submit a letter of protest to the provincial governor, while those in Khon Kaen criticize the proposed limit as unfair, particularly to those who have dedicated decades to the role without financial support.

The Department of Health Service Support (DHSS) asserts that the bill aims to enhance the skills of health volunteers, formally recognize their contributions, and ensure they receive appropriate benefits. The proposal includes the formation of a panel, chaired by the public health permanent secretary, to support and promote the volunteers’ work, along with a fund to back their efforts.

Thailand has 1 million health volunteers who play a critical role in advancing family and community health security.

Ketsarin Saengsawat, a volunteer from Khon Kaen, criticized the proposed age limit as unfair to long-serving volunteers who began their roles before the introduction of a monthly allowance. “If the age limit applies to new volunteers, that’s acceptable. But the current ones should be allowed to work until they die or resign,” she said. Saengsawat also noted that the role has gained appeal in recent years due to a monthly allowance of 2,000 baht and an increase in the funeral welfare fund from 150,000 baht to 540,000 baht.

Ura Prapmontri, another volunteer from Khon Kaen, argued that age should not be a barrier, noting that many volunteers have successfully adapted to digital technology. She suggested an age limit of 80 instead of 70. “If they are forced to retire, we’ll fight this injustice. Those who rely on the monthly allowance will be affected. The amount can help with their household expenses and debt payments.”

Treechada Srithada, spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, clarified that the age limit would not apply to those already serving when the law takes effect. However, these volunteers must register within one year of the law’s implementation to retain their positions. She urged health volunteers to participate in the public hearing process, assuring them that their feedback would be considered before the bill is finalized and submitted to the Cabinet, as reported by the Bangkok Post.

In attendance at various discussions and protests were numerous health volunteers and local officials, all voicing their concerns and seeking amendments to the proposed legislation.

Nora Zaarimi
Author: Nora Zaarimi

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